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Endless ReferralsNetwork Your Everyday Contacts into Sales
By Bob Burg
McGraw-HillCopyright © 2006 Bob Burg
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNetworking: What It Is and What It Does for You!
The late Og Mandino was an extremely successful man. A renowned speaker and storyteller, he is probably best known as author of the classic best-seller, The Greatest Salesman in the World, a book that has sold more than 30 million copies. Yes, that's 30 million copies! And that was only one book. His others—many of them classics in their own right and all with powerful, life-changing lessons—also continue to sell extremely well.
Earlier in my career, and just a few years before Og passed away, I had the honor on several occasions of presenting just before he did at large public events. At one of these events, I told him it was one of my biggest thrills to be his "opening act"; he just laughed and said the honor was his. He was a very kind and humble man.
A year or two earlier, in July 1992, Og was the keynote speaker at the annual National Speakers Association convention. For about 45 minutes he talked about the fact that nobody who is truly successful ever does it alone. He talked about his wife, his family, his associates and friends—all the people who had helped him through the rough times and over the hurdles. And, if you're familiar with Og's story and personal transformation, you know those rough times and hurdles were many.
But What Does That Have to Do with Networking?
Let's go back to the definition of networking from the Preface: the cultivating of mutually beneficial, give-and-take, win-win relationships.
Now let's take a look at how Webster's dictionary defines the term network: 1. Any arrangement of fabric or parallel wires, threads, etc., crossed at regular intervals by others fastened to them so as to leave open space; netting; mesh. 2. A thing resembling this in some way.
Now, for the purpose of this book, let's leave out the words and thoughts in both definitions (mine and Webster's) that don't apply and keep those that do. Oh, and let's substitute the word people for the words fabric, parallel wires, and threads in Webster's. Here is what we get:
Network: An arrangement of people crossed at regular intervals by other people, all of whom are cultivating mutually beneficial, give-and-take, win-win relationships with each other.
The Basic Setup
Let's look at the first part of what we have.
Just as we are each positioned at the center of our own particular universe, each of us is also positioned at the center of our network. We realize, of course, that all the other people are positioned at the centers of their networks, and that is as it should be.
Each of the people in any given network serves as a source of support (referrals, help, information, etc.) for everyone else in that network.
Those who know how to use the tremendous strength of a network realize this very important fact:
We are not dependent on each other; nor are we independent of each other; we are all interdependent with each other.
The true strength really comes through realizing that all the people in our network are also part of other people's networks that we ourselves don't personally know. And that, indirectly, makes each of those people part of our network, too.
Sphere of Influence
Are you familiar with the term sphere of influence? Sphere of influence simply refers to the people you know—people who are somehow, in some way a part of your life, directly or indirectly (and sometimes even very indirectly).
Your sphere of influence includes everyone from immediate family members to distant relatives, close friends to casual acquaintances, the person who delivers the mail, the plumber, the tailor, the person who cuts your hair—practically anybody who in some way touches your life and whose life you touch.
Have you ever heard of Joe Girard? Based out of a Chevrolet dealership in Detroit, Michigan, Joe Girard was one of the world's most successful car salespeople. Actually, he was officially the most successful car salesperson in the world—for 14 consecutive years! That's how long he was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for selling the most cars in a year's time. And not fleet sales either, but individual new car sales. Joe Girard sold oodles and oodles of cars. My feeling, and I hope it's yours too, is that anyone with that kind of record has wisdom we should be willing to listen to, if he's willing to share it.
Happily, he is. In his book, How to Sell Anything to Anybody, Girard explains what he calls Girard's Law of 250, which states that each of us has a personal sphere of influence of about 250 people. According to Girard, about 250 people will attend your wedding and your funeral. Here's how he arrived at that number. He once asked the funeral director at a funeral he was attending, "About how many people usually come to pay their respects?" "On average? About 250," was the response. Soon after this, Joe attended a wedding where he and asked the caterer the same question, only this time, about wedding receptions. The answer? About 250 from the bride's side and another 250 from the groom's side.
In other words, according to Girard's Law of 250, everyone knows about 250 people in his or her life important enough to invite to their wedding and have show up at their funeral. Now, even if that figure seems high (and given that not everyone in our sphere of influence will necessarily be invited to our wedding or attend our funeral), the numbers do work out, and quite well.
Here's an exercise you can do to prove this to yourself. As you're doing this, don't prejudge, prequalify or for any other reason leave someone off the list. We're doing this only to make a point. You'll understand in a moment how it ties in. By the way, the following is not meant to limit you in any way; it's just a suggestion to help get you started.
First, take a pencil and paper and write down the names of those people you know who immediately come to mind. Everybody! Don't worry about whether they qualify to purchase your product or service; that's not important for right now. Write down as many of these names as you can think of. If you're like most of us, you'll find that not many people readily come to mind. You'll learn why that is in the segment, "How to Ask for Referrals (So That You Actually Get Them)" in Chapter 6.
After you've exhausted this list, then turn to your local Yellow Pages telephone directory. Go to the letter "A" and notice all the job classifications that begin with A. Go through these one by one and write down the names of anyone and everyone you know who works in those industries or professions. Now do the same with B, then C, D, E and all the way through to Z. Examples from each would be, "Who do you know who is an A—Actuary, B—Banker, C—Chiropractor, D—Dentist ...?" and so on. Write them all down. Again, no qualifying. Just write them down.
Now go to the White Pages directory to look at people's last names, beginning again with A. Who do you know with the last name, Aaron? How about Abbot, Acheson, Adair, Atkinson? And then B: Baluk, Bass, Brenner, Burns, Byers and so on. And yes, do the same with C, D, E and so on, all the way through Z.
Next go through first names. There are just over 50 male and female first names; actually there are probably many more, depending on how fancy you want to get, but even going just with the most common names: Who do you know by the name of George, Debra, Tom, Tammi, Steve, Barbara and so forth?
Now think about associations and religious, political, and business organizations in which you might be involved and write down the names of those within that framework who come to mind. If you actually have a directory, use that.
Keep writing down the names of everyone you can think of. Yes, your list is now growing and growing. When finished, you'll discover that the number of people you know will at least come close to 250, and that's before knowing how to effectively network. Without even trying, most of us have a sphere of influence of about 250 people.
And more importantly, so do most other people.
Why is that "more important"? Because, although not everyone on your initial list is a qualified prospect for whatever it is you sell, there's a good chance that those on your list know of other people who are. And those people will know of still others who are, too. Sure, there will be some crossover, that is, people whom both of you know, but that's not a problem.
And this is only the beginning. Again, this is without doing any sort of proactive networking wherein you'll meet new people and form new relationships. And many of those people, people you've never met before, know 250 or more other people you'd have no other way of ever knowing, or who would have no other way of knowing of you.
Hang on: this is about to get truly exciting.
You see, this is where, for most of us, our most lucrative sphere of influence comes into play—the one developed via the Endless Referrals System®.
Why? Because even if the new people you meet are themselves only "average" (meaning, of only mild potential value to your business), they each probably know at least 250 other people well enough that those people will attend their wedding and funeral, 250 people they know in some way or other. And by utilizing the Endless Referrals System®, you'll learn how to successfully meet the "above-average" contacts—those people who themselves have very valuable spheres of influence to which they can eventually introduce you.
Now let's tie this all together. Keeping in mind that every time you successfully go through the process of making a new person a part of your network—just one new person—you actually increase your personal sphere of influence by a potential 250 people. And since each of those 250 people also has a sphere of influence of another 250 people, adding this one new person to your network has indirectly put you into potential contact with 62,500 people! It's not hard to see how you can quickly amass an enormous sphere of influence that can soar to incredible heights.
(Of course, again, there will be some crossover and overlap, so cut that number in half, and just to be safe, cut it in half again. Come to think of it, let's cut it in half one more time. At more than 7800 people, the numbers still look pretty good, don't they? And again, that's just from one person!)
This Network Will Increase Our Sales
These days, buyers are different than they used to be. They are educated, trained, and skeptical. They are backed by consumer protection laws, as it should be. The adage caveat emptor, "let the buyer beware," is no longer apropos. Probably the biggest change of all is that today's buyers are much more relationship-oriented. People want to buy from people they know, like, and trust.
That's where our network comes into play, but in a different way than you might imagine. You might be thinking, "Those people in our network already know us, like us, and trust us. They are our buyers."
No! You'll recall that not everyone on that list is a potential buyer. However, they may well be potential referral sources. And they are only the tip of the iceberg. All things being equal, the people who know us, like us, and trust us will tend to buy from us or refer us. But if we stop there, we are walking away from a lot of potential business.
Remember, those people are at the center of their own individual networks. They themselves can connect you to a potential 250 or more other people. Keep in mind, those 250 have their own 250. Knowing that, and knowing how to work the situation, will result in a ton of new business.
The Golden Rule
The following statement is the central premise, the foundation, of the entire Endless Referrals System®. I certainly didn't make this saying up; it's as old as the hills. And for good reason: it's an immutable law. Here it is:
All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.
This is the bronze, silver, golden, and even platinum rule of networking. In other words, if two people both have similar or equal products, price, know-how, or any other determining factor that could possibly come into play, it's the man or woman who has personally won over the prospect or referral source who will earn that sale or referral.
The intent and theme of this entire book is to show you how to get people to know, like, and trust you.
Let's take this one step further. We also want these people to want to see you succeed and want to help you find new business. You might say, we want these people to be your Personal Walking Ambassadors. And that goal isn't particularly difficult to accomplish.
In today's high-tech world, successful, long-term selling is relationship-oriented; the more high-tech our world continues to become, the more important the relationship will grow. People want and choose to do business that way. You might say, the more high-tech, the more soft-touch, that is, the more personal touch matters. Relationships now rule the selling process.
Yes, now more than ever: all things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.
Things Aren't Always Equal
By the same token, if all things are not equal, and a person cannot provide the quality, price, or whatever else is necessary, it doesn't matter how the other person feels about them, they won't get the business or referrals.
No matter how well people know us, like us, and trust us as a person, we have to be able to come through for them when they give us their business or referrals. If we can't or don't, we'll be in danger of losing not only their direct business but that of their 250-person sphere of influence as well. As Tim Sanders points out in his terrific book, Love is the Killer App, "Once you earn their business your performance still must be able to scale." In other words, the relationship might get you in, but then it's up to you to deliver the goods.
For instance, there is a dry cleaning company in my town. The owners and employees are lovely people who I believe try to do a good job. However, it just doesn't seem to work. Personally, I can honestly say I know them, like them and trust them. Trust them, that is, to do practically anything in the world for me—except clean my suits.
Now, the fact that they happen to be dry cleaners doesn't work out particularly well for them. They nearly ruined three of my best suits. They seemed to have trouble following instructions, as well. I would tell them I wanted very light starch on my shirts, but when I'd arrive to pick up my clothes, my shirts would be practically standing at attention waiting for me. (In fact, I thought I saw one of them actually walking toward the door to greet me.)
Despite my positive personal feelings about these people, it just didn't work out. After a while, I could no longer justify doing business with them directly—or giving them any referrals, either. Now, if they were delivering service at a level anywhere close to their competition, they would to this day continue to have my direct business and quite a bit of my referral business as well—and who knows how many of my referrals would in turn refer others? But they are not, so they don't.
Again, all things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.
It Isn't Just What or Who You Know
Sure, we've all heard the axiom, "It isn't what you know, it's who you know." Chances are you had that saying related to you by a crusty old macho businessman type, as he sagely nodded, pleased and proud to share his eternal wisdom.
Of course, what you know is also important. Let's face it: if we want to be successful in business, we have to know what we're doing and what we're talking about. We must be able to provide proper guidance to our prospects, customers, and clients. And if we can't provide excellent (or at least adequate) service after the sale, we can rest assured we won't be doing business with that person ever again.
We will also lose out on the business of those in their 250-person sphere of influence. Why? Because nothing gets around faster than negative comments. You can also bet those comments will somehow make their way back to the original person who used his or her influence with that other person to get you the referral in the first place. That original person will then, of course, have to be removed from your "who you know" list.
But back to the "sage advice": it's true—to an extent. Certainly, in today's world of sales and business, to get the opportunity to do business with someone in the first place, who you know is often vitally important. But that's not all there is to it.
It isn't just what you know, and it isn't just who you know. It's also who knows you and what you do for a living ...
That is, when that person, or someone that person knows, needs your products, goods, or services. And:
... providing that first person knows you, likes you, and trusts you.
Excerpted from Endless Referrals by Bob Burg Copyright © 2006 by Bob Burg. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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