Category Archives: Business

Networking Skills – How to Be the Most Valuable Person in the Room

Relationship marketing and networkingOften the word networking conjures up images of someone running around frantically trying to shove his or her business cards into as many hands as possible. If this describes you — stop doing this now. If it describes anyone you know — then share this article with them. Believe me, they’ll thank you for doing so. Trust me, paper-cuts make a terrible first impression.

If we are really honest what I described above isn’t that uncommon an occurrence is it? It’s enough to make one want to just avoid the business meeting or mixer altogether isn’t it?

These drive by networkers can really give the art of networking, connecting, or plain old meeting and building relationships (if you’re not into professional buzzwords) a bad name can’t they?

As a general rule, there are two reasons people take this broken approach. One, in the rarest of cases they are just rude, and really don’t give a rip what you do, nor do they care to make the interaction a two way, win / win connection. Fortunately, that’s rare, but we have to be real here. Sadly, there are the few who just don’t get it. These folks are looking out for themselves first (and really, just themselves). The ideas I’m going to share with you here are not for those people.

Frankly, a person has to get beyond the “what’s in it for me only” approach to networking before anything will really work for them. In most cases you will find that people who are ineffective in their approach to professional connecting is because they just haven’t ever been taught a better way to go about things. For those that fall into this camp, the ideas that follow will be immensely helpful. You must apply what you learn, but as you do, you’ll see incredible results.

Change your mindset from “me, me, me” to the person who introduces others and creates winning interactions…

This works for a very simple reason. Because pretty much everyone else in the room is thinking about one thing, how they can start a conversation focused on sharing what they have to offer. While that’s not totally a bad thing, after all, in most cases it is the ultimate purpose for being at the meeting, especially if it’s a professional one. It doesn’t exactly take a genius to figure out there’s going to be a challenge if everyone in the room is simply focused in on getting their point across.

Therefore, one of the simplest things you can do is to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. The best way I found to do that is to become a valuable resource. And in a room where everyone is focused on getting their message across first — the easiest way to become more valuable to others is to take it upon yourself to be an introducer of everyone else in the room.

Here’s how it works — rather than making things about you, lead the conversation and make it a priority to introduce different people to each other. Especially where their knowing each other might be of some mutual benefit or synergy to their connecting. Yes, it is that simple.

This works for a number of reasons. One being that it takes the pressure off of you which can often build up when you’re focused on meeting strangers and pushing your own message to those you don’t know. Plus the two people that you connect will be appreciative to you for having introduced them. That in itself makes you more valuable to both those people.

Lest you think you’re going to be left out make no mistake that both those people are not only going to appreciate you but probably also think about you on a higher level — because you went above just thinking about yourself. You put their greater needs above yourself. This is far rarer than it should me. I can assure you this is a good light in which to be viewed by your peers.

You better believe that the people you put first will absolutely want to know who you are, and what you have to offer. And one of the best parts about this approach is that you were able to get your goal of sharing about yourself and what you have to offer delivered in a very low key way. Zero pushiness involved.

I’ll readily admit the idea above is unconventional, but make no mistake that’s exactly what makes it so effective. Give it a try the next time you find yourself in a professional setting or for that matter any type of meeting where the opportunity exists for you to be a matchmaker putting the wants and needs of others above your own. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

It’s also worth pointing out that inevitably during the conversation even though you’re focused clearly on connecting the other two people for their benefit the conversation will turn towards you where you have the opportunity to share a bit about what you do. Again steer the conversation and keep the focus on the two people you connected but don’t completely resist the opportunity to share a little bit about yourself as well. After all in the context of the conversation it’s only normal that you do so.

Use props to initiate conversations — and as conversation starters…

For some people even knowing how to start a conversation with someone they have never met is difficult. One simple thing you can do is to get creative with stick on name tags. Generally these will be provided for people attending the particular event (you might even consider keeping some handy in case they aren’t provided). Most people will simply include their name. What I will often do is go a step farther. For example, I’ll write something that’s more likely to begin a conversation. I’ll include my name on the name tag and then something else such as asking a question.

Here are a few examples I would write on the name tag:

  • My name. Tell me about your business.
  • My name. What business are you in?
  • My name. What do you love most about your company?
  • My name. What is the name of your company?
  • My name. Tell me about your company so I can potentially refer you business.

Those are just some random examples, but it will amaze you how effective such a simple idea can be in getting people to initiate a conversation with you. Think about it, in most “networking events” people are looking around to meet and share what they do, and talk about their companies.

Just like you they are probably not completely comfortable with the idea of walking up to strangers and starting a conversation either. Much less getting that conversation to a point where they talk about their business or companies offerings. Friend, you have made it completely easy for them. Most people are looking at everyone’s name tag anyway. At the very least it’s a conversation starter.

You’re doing something different. You are different because unlike the majority of people in the room or at the event you’re making it clear that you’re more interested in learning about others first. And believe me, when you take the time to put the interests of others first, they will engage you in conversation about what you do as well. Everything is just a whole lot more comfortable taking this simple approach. Give it a try and I’m confident you’ll find it to work very well.

Be awesome and have fun in business!

Josh Hinds

How to Get Better Results When Requesting Joint Ventures (JV’s) — Hint: Don’t be Self-centered

This is going to be a bit more “business oriented” than some of my other writing. If that’s not your forte, you have my permission to tune out now. Or better yet, just peruse through any of the other posts I have written (there are many).

We’re going to discuss how to go about crafting joint ventures that don’t make you come across as self centered — and dare I say, actually be seen as someone others would want to enter into a proposed venture with.

You may very well wonder, with the countless experts (some self proclaimed, and those with a legitimate claim to the title) why I would even want to discuss this topic, much less what on earth makes me think I’m qualified to do so. That’s a legitimate question. Afterall, rule one should be to learn from those who have actually done what they’re professing to know something about.

So here’s a bit of background that I hope shows I’m at least somewhat qualified to talk on this topic (my intention isn’t to toot my own horn here. Quite the opposite actually). Back in 1996 / early 1997, I started my first website, a community site, focused on delivering self improvement & motivational content. That site is still running today, it began as a hobby, and over the years has grown to include other niche topic websites (each focusing on its own personal & professional topic), related newsletters, products (physical & digital), consulting, etc. The website was later rebranded with a different URL, which is now GetMotivation.com — over the life of the website, it has been visited by millions. There have been ups in traffic, downs, and back up agains. Change, as they say is the only constant.

Naturally, I’ve learned quite a bit over the years of doing what I do. I’ve also seen a lot of teachers “teach” techniques and ways to do things that just aren’t near as effective as they could be. I want to stress that my point here is not to pick on anyone in particular. If you happen to be reading this, and you feel I’m somehow talking about you, or someone whose work you follow, I assure you, I’m not. Plain and simple, this is a compilation of thoughts created over many years, and many, many different people.

First, let’s identify what a joint venture is. In its simplest form, two or more people agree to come together for mutual benefit. There are any number of ways this can occur.

One of the more common ways this happens is that person a, has a newsletter, person b, wants to have person a offer their product / service to person a’s newsletter list (it could be their blog, really whatever platform / audience they have).

While this sounds all good and well, the problem is that along the way people have been taught to believe that there is some huge, win, win that comes from person a being granted the “right” to offer person b’s products & services to their client / customer base. It’s worth noting that person b, does in most cases offer to pay a % of whatever sales result.That said, I assure you, if you’ve been in business for any amount of time, and are trying to create a long term business, this arrangement just isn’t as exciting, nor a “win” for person a as person b often thinks it is.

I concede that this fly’s in the face of quite a few people, out there who are teaching this technique. I know there are tons of people who take this as the absolute truth — because, as someone who over the years, more than once has built newsletter lists of over 150,000 subscribers I get my share of people who contact me with just such arrangements. Not near as often, but on occasion, I also get what I consider the “better way” of making the request. And yes, I will outline below what I believe is a more effective way to ask for a truly win, win joint venture.

Before I do though, here’s why the “traditional, more common” approach above is a crappy approach (in my humble opinion) to take.

Look at the following example:

Imagine you were selling a great tie, it was all the rage, and everyone who saw it loved it. They absolutely loved it. However, since you are just getting started in business, you haven’t grown to the point where you can afford to open a storefront, or haven’t built your customer base to the point where you can get your “incredible life changing, stylish tie” to the masses. No worries someone says, “there are stores in every mall, and other places that are established, just tell them if they’ll include your tie on their shelves, thereby offering it to their customers, you’ll gladly give them a piece of any profit you make.”

If you read the example above and are asking, “what’s wrong with that?” — let me assure you that it isn’t that simple. First, major retailers often charge for placement, beyond just selling your products, assuming they even get picked up. That said, your willingness to “share the profit” is at best a given. I’m not picking on anyone here, and I’m not saying JV’s aren’t a terrific way to grow your business. I’m just saying you have to think beyond what most people suggest, get creative, and truly creating winning (yes, for ALL involved) proposals.

To connect the example, to what we are talking about, you need to understand that a person / companies list is in fact their business (for anyone serious about serving others, it’s not just a list, but rather, living breathing people who one is committed to serving to their best of their ability). And a lot has gone into building trust to the point that each person has chosen to join their particular list. Just like “the established store” doesn’t just haphazardly stick things on the shelves for their customers to buy, people who are serious about building long lasting businesses are going to be more guarded about what they share. The more willing you are to accept this, the better results you are going to have when you’re thinking through what is a real win for all involved. Your offer can’t be “ALL about you.”

Now that I’ve gotten the reasons why the approach that most folks are taking (and it isn’t working, at least not as well as it could be) covered let’s get down to some steps you can take that will put you above the crowd.

Steps for crafting Joint Ventures that People are far more likely to say yes to…

1. Remember that you’re not doing someone a favor by letting them sell or promote your product. At best, that’s the price of admission now. With countless, and more creative offers (JV’s) to participate in you better be willing to up your game.

2. Focus on building a relationship with others first. Look for (and actually act on them) ways that you can help and champion the work that others are doing. In other words, if someone has been a real champion in helping get the word out about what you are doing aren’t you going to be more open to helping them out when possible? Of course you are.

That said, I see a lot of people who count the costs of everything they do in this respect. And quite frankly, that is a good way to sabotage yourself. If you’re just doing something with some agenda, hoping that eventually you can “cash in” on that thing later on that’s not going to be something that’s going to work for you. Sure, you may guilt some folks with this approach, but later on those people are going to remember the way they felt, and simply not allow you to “do them another favor” (i.e. because it’s not really a favor you did them anyway).

To this day there are a lot of people I have helped in some very BIG ways. I’m proud of that. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of in all the years I have been doing what I do. That said, I simply can’t help everyone, no matter how much I wish I could (I bet you can relate?). So, I have to prioritize. Naturally, those who have gone above and beyond, get my attention. Understand that above and beyond doesn’t mean I’m counting what they have done for me. I’m not counting apples to apples. Heck, a person who takes the time to just stay in touch and genuinely be a friend naturally gets my attention. That said, those who seem to always show up when they’ve got their latest “zippity doo dah” about to be released, just don’t get the same response or excitement on my part that those who are their “just because” do.

3. Here’s an actual bit of wording I use when reaching out with a request, and I should add that I’ve seen work very well when others use it. First, off, credit to my friend, mentor, and colleague Bob Burg (burg.com) for teaching me a variant of this so many years ago. I’m going to paraphrase it, but if you know Bob’s work, you’ll recognize it for sure. If you’re not familiar with his work, you should be. Visit his site at www.Burg.com and dig into his writings. The time you spend doing so will serve you well!

Use the following words:

“I totally understand if you’re unable to participate, but I did want to ask.“

In other words, I ask for what I have in mind. I make the offer, but I make a point to include that statement, or some variant of it. If you are saying to yourself, “Josh, what if they say they can’t help me” and you have a problem with that, then you’ve missed the point entirely. I include that wording, because, quite frankly, if someone is unable to help, I want them to know I genuinely understand, and accept that.

The sad fact is that the vast majority of people don’t do this simple step, and a far more disconcerting number of folks actually phrase their request in a way to assume that the person they are asking something for, should just jump right on board and do it. Heck, they don’t even phrase it in a way as to ask. This doesn’t make people feel good about you. You may never have anyone tell you otherwise, but I can assure you it’s not the approach you want to take.

That said, if you give people the opportunity to say no, when it genuinely isn’t a fit for them, as if by magic (it’s actually not anything close to magic) far fewer people will take the “out”. Again, this is of course assuming you’re not seen as someone who is a “taker” — I don’t want to be harsh here, and anyone who knows me knows that’s not in my nature, but I have to make that point. Because so many people, unwittingly I have to assume, are inadvertently positioning themselves in this way because the only time they show up in the lives of others is when they want to “do a joint venture” (i.e you share my product or offer with your list / audience).

I can hear you now, “if I don’t ask, I know I won’t get what I want.”

True, but here’s another truth… the way you ask, and the kind of person you are perceived as by others greatly influences the results you will get when asking. And to borrow a phrase from Si Robertson of Duck Dynasty, “that’s a fact jack!”

4. Craft a true win, win. As we discussed above, just offering to share profits from the sales of your products or services, when you are asking the other person to make the offer to THEIR customers isn’t likely enough to get folks clamoring to do this for you.

Here’s a simple twist you can try. It’s always more appealing, for me anyway, when people reach out to me when offering this type of JV arrangement.

Ask to do a simple ad swap, or free product swap. The idea here is simple, you have a product (something that is of actual value, that other people would appreciate getting a copy of). You see, the person you contacted is willing to share your free offer (you can also do this with a paid product), and in return, you agree to do the same for them. Emphasis on being willing to do the same for them.

Here’s why that approach works:

You’re showing that you are willing to champion, and stand behind what the other person is doing, and of course they are willing to do the same (plus, your customer, and the other person’s customers, win because they benefit from whatever agreed upon gift, or product was offered). Simply put, this approach makes you a person who goes above and beyond those who are just asking you to do something for them. You’re saying, “I’m willing to share what you have, if you’re willing to believe in me & what I have to offer, and to act in kind.”

I realize some people are going to scoff at what I have suggested here. Hey, I accept that, it takes all kinds. And of course I’m not under the misconception that what I’m suggesting is the “only way” to do something. I can tell you though, with more and more people, the approach I outlined above for you will be the best, if not only way to get a response.

As with any partnership you enter into, you’ll do well to go in looking for ways that each of you will truly benefit. Even better, if someone has to get the better end of the stick, if that has to be the case, let the other person have it. It will inevitably come back to you in time anyway.

Btw. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on the ideas above in the comments below.

It’s Your Life, LIVE BIG!
Josh Hinds

Rule Number One of Leadership – Leaders Don’t Pass the Buck

There are far greater authorities then I who have written on the all important topic of leadership. That said, I do want to touch on this one, what I believe to be an incredibly important leadership skill. I consider it to be rule #1 because anyone who aspires to be a true leader, whether, in their personal life, professionally, or a combination of both, there is simply no way around not making this leadership characteristic a part of their very being.

What’s the #1 rule of leadership you ask? …

Don’t play the blame game. If you have been entrusted with the role of leader, you need to accept whatever challenges exist, yes even the ones, that may have been present before you undertook the role you currently find yourself in.

I love what John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.” It’s for this very reason that grasping the lesson above is so important. Because people are influenced by those they respect — and if you are a person who doesn’t accept responsibility for creating positive change in the given area of your life where you have been entrusted with the role of leadership, you are going to have a difficult time remaining someone that others respect, and as such are willing to remain influenced by, which as you can imagine is going to limit your ability to lead.

Therefore, I hope you will keep the following ideas in mind…

The truly great leaders, the leaders who manage to create a legacy, the kind that lasts years after they have gone from the position of prominence they once held never point to the shortcomings of their predecessors because they know that those who put them in the position of leadership deserve better. They understand that they were entrusted with the all important title of leader because those who trusted them and put them in this position want to see results.

They reached the level the leader not to spend time discussing the challenges they faced, and how bad a shape things were left to them, no those who lifted them up as the leader deserve better, they want solutions, not excuses. And make no mistake, the leaders who leave a lasting legacy never even mention those before them — unless to give them credit and point out the good things that they may have done. Instead they choose to focus on what they are there to do, what others are trusting them to do — to lead, without blame, and excuses, and in-turn create positive change.

Great leaders accept responsibility for the current situation and focus on solutions…

Friend, make no mistake, the first, and utmost important characteristic of a true leader is their willingness to own whatever challenges they come across during their tenure as leader. Deflecting and placing blame outside themselves doesn’t fix anything, and those who take this approach inevitably end up disqualifying themselves as true leaders. Anyone can acknowledge and point out past problems, and place blame on others who may or may not have had a hand in whatever challenges exist.

True leaders are those who refuse to go down the all too common road which is paved by blame, and even goes as far as to ensure that those around them don’t attempt to shift blame either. The true leader accepts the situation as is it now, and further, accepts that he or she is fully responsible for the end result. They relish in this challenge — they know that excuses, or shifting blame in anyway will diminish their ability to lead, because of the loss of respect they will get as a result of placing blame, and not accepting that they were put in the position they are now because others believed they could get things to where they needed to be, regardless of whatever situation they may have inherited.

Make no mistake, true leaders make the decision to get on with the business of fixing whatever problems and challenges may appear, when they appear, holding and expressing their vision for what will create that and keep others updated with real, measurable results so that everyone can see first hand that things are in fact changing for the better.

All of us must be responsible for holding those we entrust with the role of leader accountable. When we see that they are falling short, we must be willing to point it out, and let them know we expect better.

It’s Your Life, LIVE BIG!
Josh Hinds

PS. If you would like to have me speak to your group, or company send me a message. I look forward to encouraging and inspiring your team in a BIG way!

-What do you think of the ideas above? What are some other important characteristics that are needed in order to be deserving of the title of “great leader”? Share your thoughts in the comments below.