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.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Get Out of a Rut: Build Four Kinds of Networks


In the movie Groundhog Day, a weatherman played by Bill Murray lives the same day over and over again. For some of us, each day can seem like that.  Same old. Same old.  Why not shake things up a bit?  Today is the perfect day for fresh goals and new tools. A good place to start is by taking stock of your professional networks and cultivating new contacts.

Think of it this way:  You have 4 Nets:

Your WorkNet helps you to get the job done. It includes everyone you work with directly, day-by-day, or periodically, to complete your own priority projects. It also includes clients/customers, partners, and vendors.

Your OrgNet helps you stay in touch with the big picture and contribute to the overall success of your organization. Your OrgNet is created by you.  It’s made up of people in other divisions, departments, and business units of the organization. This is an important Net because the network you create is far more complex, diverse, and useful than any organization chart.

Your ProNet helps you gain expertise and mastery in your chosen profession and provides   
opportunities to give back. Your ProNet is your network of professional contacts outside the organization you work for. 

Your LifeNet helps you create community, get the most out of life, and connect with, and contribute to, abundance for yourself and others. Your LifeNet is made up of all your friends, family, and leisure time contacts who bring you a wealth of information, support, and resources.

With these Nets, you can design new ways to expand your influence, find mentors, and get the job done.  Mix in your global ties and social media connections.  You can also build KeyNets, designed to help you with specific projects and goals. Whether you want to advance your career, or are looking for clients, or want more of a seat at the table in your organization, your connections can help you.  In today’s global and multi-faceted world, the possibilities are endless.

The Corporate Executive Board reports that almost 50% of an executives’ value to their organizations is now made up of their ability to use and contribute to the networks. So be strategic. Be intentional. Be persistent.  And be professional. 

—from Strategic Connections: The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World (2015, AMACOM, NY) by Baber, Waymon, Alphonso, and Wylde, Principals at Contacts Count LLC, an international training firm that specializes in helping individuals and organizations put the tools of networking to work in the service of business and professional goals.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Risky Business

                                                               Risky Business: 
                  How to Make Counting On Others Less Scary

                                        by Lynne Waymon

You count on Susan to get you the sales figures by the end of the quarter.  You count on Don to set up the training room and supply all the materials for your group of 30.  You count on Reza to get the project to the client on or before the due date.   Over and over, every day, workplace productivity depends on trusting people.  How is that trust earned?  How can you rest assured that Susan, Don, and Reza will get the job done?

The language we use reveals just how risky it is to decide to trust someone. We say things like:

  • “I’d go out on a limb for him.” (A limb might break off!)
  • “I don’t mind sticking my neck out for her.”  (You might lose your head!)
  • “I’d put my good name on the line for him.” (You might regret having signed on!)
  • “I’d go to bat for her.”  (She might end up striking out!)
So, when you trust someone, you’ve made an emotional decision.  You’ve overcome all kinds of reluctance.  How does that kind of trust develop?  To look at that, let’s explore at how people learn to count on you.  How can you teach people to believe in your character and competence

After 25 years of listening closely to clients from a wide variety of professions and industries, we have determined that people believe in your Character when you

  • Do what you say you will do.
  • Meet deadlines.
  • Go for the win/win solution.
  • Treat everyone you meet fairly.
  • Are unfailingly reliable.
  • Speak well of people even when they are not present.
  • Come from a position of abundance, not scarcity.
  • Move from competition to collaboration.
  • Compensate generously for your mistake and make it right when something goes wrong.
  • Go the extra mile.
  • Respect other people’s time and possessions.
  • Say, “Thank you!”

And people will believe in your Competence when you

  • Earn the proper credentials.
  • Win praise and awards from your peers.
  • Take life-long learning seriously.
  • Are cited as an expert in the trade press or in the mass media.
  • Teach or mentor others.
  • Consult with others to share your expertise.
  • Write for publications or speak in public.
  • Do the job right – the first time.
  • Happily discuss your procedures and processes with clients and customers.
  • Handle “the little stuff” with care.
  • Follow through to be sure that your work meets – or exceeds – expectations.
  • Stay at the leading edge of your profession.

Trust happens as you teach others about your Character and Competence and learn about theirs.  This teaching process takes time.  Our Contacts Count research shows that it takes six to eight conversations in which you show you can be trusted and take note of what contacts do and say to decide if you can trust them.

It’s a big order.   Conversation by conversation, action by action, your confidence in each other grows and the work gets done.   As trust develops, risk recedes.  The risk you’re willing to take and the value you derive are both determined by the degree of trust you’ve earned.  Pouring your energy into developing trusting relationships makes counting on each other much more comfortable.

* * * * *

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Not too Pushy, Not Too Passive:
Choosing a Good Next Step When Networking

by Lynne Waymon co-author of Strategic Connections:
The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World
(AMACOM, January 2015)

In our training programs, participants bring up worries about how to follow up and build relationships for long-term benefit.  They say:  “I’m afraid I’ll ask for too much too soon?”  And at the other end of the spectrum they worry, “Maybe I’m missing an opportunity if I don’t reconnect right away.”  

The answer lies in knowing how to assess the stage of trust you’ve earned with each of your important contacts.  There are appropriate – and inappropriate – things to do and say at each stage of the relationship-building process.

Take James, for instance.  He wants to move from his job in Personnel to Talent Development, so he needs to become known to people in TD.   He’s met a few people in that department, but wonders, “What’s a good next step for showing them my character and competence?  What can I do and say that will make them think of me when there’s an opening?” 

Here’s what we recommend to James – and anyone else who’s identified someone they’d like to have more of a relationship with.  Thinking of the person you’d like to start or rev up a relationship with, answer these 15 questions.  If you’re unsure of the answer to the question, then the answer is “no.”

Rate Your Relationships Quiz

Does my contact:

  • Demonstrate knowing my face and my name by coming up to me, saying hello, and introducing me accurately to others? 
  • Know me well enough to recognize me “out of context” in a new setting? 
  • Know several ways to contact me?
  • Recognize my name instantly when I call?
  • In conversation, explore commonalities and needs?
  • Accurately describe what I do?
  • Give vivid examples of what I do?
  • Know that I am good at what I do and can cite reasons why my work is superior?
  • Know of some independent verification of my expertise – an award, certification, third-party endorsement?
  • Respond quickly to requests from me?
  • Regularly send me valuable information and resources?
  • Know what kinds of people can use my expertise and is on the lookout for them?
  • Always speak well of me to others and pass my name along?
  • Tell me the truth, keep confidences, and have my best interests at heart?
  • Bring me into all areas of his/her life over a long period of time?

Use your answers to guide you to a good next step.  When did you begin to answer “No?”  Noticing that will help you decide what you want to be sure to tell – and ask – the next time you see this person.   For instance James noticed that Jeff, in Talent Development probably didn’t know that James had recently completed his Masters in Training and Development (Question #9).  So he decided the next time they were together at an interdepartmental meeting, he’d try to weave that into the conversation as a way to teach Jeff more about his character and competence.

As an intentional networker, you’ll be aware of what kinds of things you’d like to teach your contacts in each encounter.  These 15 questions highlight our finding that it often takes six or eight contacts with someone before she knows who you are, has learned what you do, and has the evidence she needs to begin to trust you. Once that trust is established, you might be in touch once a week or once a year – depending on your relationship.  You’ll know how to take a professional approach that’s not too pushy and not too passive.

Lynne Waymon is a co-founder and principal at Contacts Count LLC, the international training firm that specializes in teaching business and professional networking skills.  The firm’s clients during the last 25 years range from CPA firms to banks, from engineers to HR professionals, and from attorneys to Fortune 100 companies.
Contacts Count’s training programs, keynotes, webinars, and train-the-trainer events help people put the tools of networking to work in the service of business goals.  Their Networking Competency Assessment measures skill in 8 competency areas.  Their new book, Strategic Connections: The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World (January 2015) is available in bulk from the publisher and by single copy at