Friday, August 4, 2017

The 7 Myths About Teaching Business Networking Skills

by Lynne Waymon, CEO of Contacts Count LLC

You see it happening before your eyes.  The old “Command and Control” culture is disappearing.  In some organizations, it’s already a goner. 
But old ideas have a sneaky way of hanging on.  You may hear people around you give voice to one or more of the 7 talent development myths below.   But, you know, to stay in the game you need to speak up about new business strategies and the new skills people need to work together. 
Be on the lookout for these misconceptions at your organization and be ready to take a stand in support of the new Network-Oriented WorkplaceTM.  In this new environment people in every job type and at every level need skills to help them connect, converse, and collaborate –face to face –not just electronically!  That’s the way things get done, innovation happens, employees feel more engaged, and your business stays competitive.  
Myth #1: “Our people already know how to network.”
Really? I wouldn’t be so sure.  When 549 people from all walks of life took our Networking Competency Assessment, their employers were shocked. Only 32% said, “I know exactly who I need to have in my network.” Only 39% said, “I know the next step to take to make any relationship more useful.” Only 39% said, “I know questions to ask that will move the relationship forward.” And a paltry 41% said, “I tell stories that teach about my team’s or my organization’s capabilities.”
Myth #2: “Nobody can learn how to network. You either have it or you don’t.”
Not so. Networkers are made, not born. Contacts Count’s client research shows that only about 20% of people are “natural networkers.” We’ve identified 8 competencies that outline a multitude of skills for the other 80% to learn.  And the natural networkers also pick up new perspectives and tools.  Anyone can learn to put the tools of networking to work in the service of business goals.
Myth #3: “Everyone’s connected. Look at all the money we’ve spent on social media!”
Good! But, that’s like saying, “I have a phone, so I have lots of friends.” Having the ability to connect electronically is not the same as knowing how to build trust-based relationships that spark innovation, get things done, and bring in new clients.   Even in this electronic age, training programs need to focus on the face value of face-to-face contact whenever possible.  
Myth #4: “Networking is an expensive time waster.  All that socializing brings very little real value.”
Not so. Ben Waber a visiting scientist at MIT reports that, “Employees who ate at cafeteria tables designed for 12 were more productive than those at tables for four, thanks to more chance conversations and larger social networks.”  Imagine what happens when people are actually taught how to make conversations even more productive.  Value soars.  
Myth #5: “Collaboration and networking are the same thing.”
Not quite.  Networking skills are the tools and strategies people need to build the kind of trust that leads to collaboration.  When you trust someone, it means you’ve decided there’s very little risk in relating to them – and the work can get done.
Myth #6: “We’ve told all of our people to collaborate.”
Sorry! It’s takes more than a decree from above to create a culture of collaboration. Savvy organizations get rid of the disincentives and roadblocks. And they put into place the systems, policies, procedures, and training programs that will develop, encourage, and support collaboration. 
Myth #7: “You can’t expect our attorneys (product managers, software engineers, budget analysts, scientists, consultants, researchers, etc.) to develop business.  That’s why we have a marketing department.”  Time to give up that outdated idea!  In this competitive world, business development is everybody’s business, no matter what their function or level within the company.  As one CEO told us, “I want everybody who works here to be our ambassadors in casual conversations, at conferences and meetings, and even in their social circles! You can’t buy that kind of visibility in a million ads.” 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

No Time for Networking

by Lynne Waymon

Too busy to re-connect and follow up?  We often hear that from our clients. 
And yet making new connections and staying in touch is a priority whether you want to advance your career, bring in new business, or gather the best business intelligence to inform future decisions.     
So how can you fit the follow through into your already packed schedule?  Try these strategies:
1.      Do you exercise?  Invite someone to walk with you or enjoy a guest pass at your golf course.
2.     Do you eat lunch?  Invite 2 or 3 people who might like to know each other to join you.
3.     Do you belong to a professional organization, but find yourself too pressed to go to the monthly meetings?  To make sure  you go, invite a guest and enjoy re-connecting as you drive to the event and sit together.  Bonus: Be sure to introduce him to others there he might like to know. 
4.     Do you read a newspaper or business magazine?  Read with a couple of people in mind.  When you see something that would be interesting or useful, clip it and mail it with a short, “Thought you might be interested” note.
5.     Do you volunteer?  Ask a contact if she’d like to join you to whip up the lasagna and deliver it to homeless shelter or pick up a hammer for Habitat for Humanity.

One of our clients used these strategies to re-connect with more than 12 key contacts in a month.   Step 1: Make a list of 12 people you’d like to reach out to.  Step 2: Invite them!  Step 3: Plan ahead to have questions and topics that will make conversation flow and help you uncover the kinds of commonalities and needs that result in relationships . . . and revenue!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Awkward Moments – How To Recover

In our training programs, these are the 4 Awkward Moments we get asked about most frequently.
  1. I can’t remember someone’s name? Say (with warmth), “I remember you! Tell me your name again.” (Then hang on to his name long enough to introduce him to someone else at the event. Whether it’s 3 minutes later or 3 hours later, that’s your job as a great connector!)
  2. I’d like to join that group of people who are talking together – but how to do it? Enter the circle, listen closely to what’s being said and react appropriately. When the person speaking has finished her point, you might say, “How do you all know each other?” Or say, “I’m new here. I’d love to know more about the group.” Or say, “What workshops did you all go to this morning?” Or say, “My name’s Joe, Joe Sanderson – like Anderson, but with an “S.” That will start the introductions and that will lead to conversation.
  3. I forgot to do something I promised to do. When you see the person say, “I really goofed. I promise to call you with Susan’s number and I didn’t. I’m so sorry. Would you still like to get in touch with her? How about if I arrange lunch for the 3 of us?” Here’s the Formula: Acknowledge the mistake. Say you’re sorry. Make amends in any way you can.
  4. I found myself talking with someone who was very dogmatic and opinionated. Say, “I’m not sure I agree with you. May I tell you how I see it?” 
Lynne Waymon,, 301-589-8633

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Why We Say “No” to Prospective Clients

When you have a tight deadline or you like what you hear about a training program we did for another organization, you might say, “Can you send me a proposal?”

Sorry.  We have to say, “No.”  

And then we say, “First I’d like to be in ‘Discovery’ with you. 

“Here’s why. Suppose you hear that John ordered a pair of shoes from us and that he REALLY likes them. So, you say, ‘Great, send me a pair.’   We send them and you’re sooooo disappointed. You wanted hiking boots; we sent dress shoes. What was right for John isn’t right for you.  A good thing about working with us is that we’re not an off-the-shelf kind of training firm.

“Here’s how we’ll work with you. Your project will have 4 distinct phases:  Discovery, Design, Delivery, and Debrief.  We want to hang out in the Discovery phase a little longer, so that when we do propose a training plan for your organization, you’re involved and it’s a perfect fit. 

“May I tell you a bit more about these 4 phases?”

Discovery – We engage in exploratory conversations with you and other stakeholders.  The goal is to develop a picture of your organization’s past, present, and future, so we can understand how you want to use the tools of networking and collaboration. 

Design – Taking into account what we’ve discovered, including your goals, possible formats, the number of people to be trained, length of time they can devote, the characteristics and learning styles of the audience, and your budget., Then we put our heads together to design the very best, customized training program you can imagine.  That’s when you’ll get that proposal! 

Delivery – We will select the very best, most experienced, professional instructor from our cadre of exceptional trainers. He/ she will provide state-of-the-art learning sessions that are upbeat, practical, interactive, and most of all customized to your specific needs.  

Debrief – We meet with you to assess the program outcomes, the audience feedback, the program’s impact on the initial need identified, and the next steps for skill development in the competencies of networking and collaboration.

If this kind of approach makes sense to you, give Lynne Waymon a call at 301-589-8633 (near Philadelphia).  But please don’t say, “Send me a proposal!”  

Sunday, January 1, 2017

5 Questions: How To “Hot Wash” Your Relationship Management Program in 2017

 Image result for cartoon carwash images

Are you wondering how to capitalize on the renewed energy that the new year brings?  Gather together stakeholders and decision makers and do what one organization we work with called a “hot wash.”  Take a fresh look at decisions, assumptions, and plans using these questions.  It’s kind of like sending your car through the car wash and seeing it come out all clean and shiny.   Ask your team:

1.  What strategic goals do we have that make relationship management a priority now?

2.  Which relationships have brought us the best information and referrals in the past? What successful patterns of development can we replicate in 2017?  What activities haven’t been worth the time and money spent?

3.  Who do we already know?  Who do we need to know?  Where will we meet these people?

4.  What behaviors tend to build trust with key contacts? What’s the best protocol for initiating relationships?  How can we best show our character and competence in the marketplace?

5.  What skills do we need as individuals to cultivate business connections? How are we going to train people over time in rainmaking?  Is each person on the team ready to talk about his or her own specialty, explain why that service/product is superior, and be an ambassador for the whole organization? 

For the organizations we work with, these kinds of questions provide a fresh start and renewed energy for business development.  We invite you to use them to make sure that your next prospect sees you as the natural and only choice.    

Monday, September 19, 2016

Why Did They Leave Money on the Table?

At an Ohio engineering firm, the consulting engineers were told that 30% of their year-end bonus would depend on extending their contracts for additional work with current clients.  These engineers – 35 of them – were on-site every day at client locations.  How many engineers would you guess got this part of their bonus?

The answer?  Three!  That’s right!  Only 3 out of 35.

At another engineering firm, the Director of Marketing bought a fistful of tickets for a basketball playoff game and roamed around the firm trying to get engineers to call clients or prospects and treat themselves and their guests to a night out at the big game.  Any takers?  Nary a one.

Your engineers (or CPA, or attorneys, or consultants) might not be what we call “natural networkers.”    But client development has become everybody’s business.  The careers of the engineers in the two examples above are in danger because they lack solid networking skills to help bring in the business.

These engineers don’t have to change their communications styles or their personalities to become capable, confident, and professional networkers.   They left money on the table because they didn’t see themselves as rainmakers and they didn’t have the skills we’ve identified in The 8 Competencies.  As one of our past training program participants said, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know!”

We encourage partners in all kinds of professional services firms to help employees learn how to go from hello to goodbye and make business networking artful, not arduous!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Six Things We Know About Organizations and Employees

By Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon

1.    Most organizations encourage their employees to see electronic networking as the most efficient tool for connecting and collaborating.  Employees think that being plugged in is the same as being connected.  They think that they can affect the bottom line, create new ideas, gather business intelligence, and stay engaged sitting at their computers.

     Yet, a study by Dr. Alex Pentland of MIT shows that “Employees with the most extensive digital networks were 7% more productive, while employees with the most cohesive face-to-face networks were 30% more productive." (Harvard Business Review)   

2.    Organizations are information networks.  To attract and develop the best people, forward-thinking organizations must consciously foster a positive networking culture of inclusiveness and inquiry, both within the organization and with outside contacts. 

     Yet, many organizations, both subtly and overtly, have a culture that discourages networking, or only think of it as merely a “job-finding tool.”  

3.    As many as 60% of your employees feel shy and uncomfortable in a variety of business and social situations. (see research by Dr. Lynne Henderson and Dr. Phillip Zimbardo of The Shyness Institute, Stanford University.)
          Yet, many organizations fail to provide the networking skills training that builds the competence and confidence of their employees and therefore miss out on the benefits that could be accrued.  
4.    Developing networks based on reciprocity, including displays of generosity, is the best way to affect the bottom line and the best way to get ahead. (see Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.)
          Yet, many managers see networking as “not working.”  

5.    Networks determine which ideas become breakthroughs by delivering 3 unique advantages: access to private information, to diverse skill sets, and to power and influence. (see Harvard Business Review, December 2005 “How to Build Your Network” by Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap)

          Yet, in most organizations the influencers/stakeholders (HR, Training, Business Development, Sales, Diversity, Corporate Communications, Leadership Initiatives, etc.) have not come together in a horizontal team to take joint actions that consciously foster a positive networking culture and teach the skills to employees.

6.    Most organizations spend thousands of dollars and many employee hours on so-called networking activities (such as memberships, professional dues and events, clubs, receptions, conferences, sponsorships, trade shows, sports events, luncheons, etc.)

          Yet, most organizations do not have one person or department that “owns” and tracks all of these expenditures.  Outcomes are not tied to performance reviews. No one is accountable. The ROI is not measured. Time and money are often wasted.