Networking Groups: The Benefits of Exclusive Referral Groups

In the February 19, 2019 article, My Life as a Connector, I discussed the fact that referrals are hands down the most effective marketing tool a business can invest in. If one will fully immerse themselves in a culture of learning and excellence, and take advantage of every tool available, there is no room for failure. I always suggest a business person take part in several handpicked networking groups and attend with intention and goals in mind. These groups should include one exclusive, invitation-only referral group, a civic-minded group, a mastermind, a free networking group, and a social group. These five types of groups, if managed properly, will set you up for the best success possible. As with any group of people, there are benefits and challenges to keep in mind. This article will focus on the benefits of exclusive, invitation-only referral groups. The next article will focus on the challenges.

Sometimes these groups are often mislabeled as “networking groups,” however referral groups offer much more than general networking to include industry exclusivity, education, team building, public speaking skills enhancement, masterminding, and internal reporting capabilities.

Image Credit Flickr/Nguyen Hung Vu

The Benefits

1. Industry Exclusivity – The first benefit of membership is industry exclusively. For example, if you are a P&C insurance agent, no other P&C agent can join your group. Look for organizations that offer flexibility in this and who do not require members to break up your industry seat. If you offer an insurance solution that includes a variety of products and services, hold the seat. On the other hand, do not be afraid to bring in another professional who may overlap with you in a few areas as you may find you can work well together.

Photo Credit: MarsDesign, Inc.  Within each of these industries lies the possibility for various categories represented within your chapter.

2. Education – A second benefit is continuing education and training provided during each meeting. You will learn BEST practices and ways to develop your sales presentation that you won’t get from general networking groups.

3. Team Building – When you sit at the table with the same people consistently, you cannot help but become a team that is willing to fight to create referral opportunities for each other. A certain camaraderie comes from having a “home base” to return to over and over throughout the year. You become family. You learn to trust. You develop a reputation for having a great team of people on your side who are interested in servicing your clients well. Pick the right team, and you will develop a stellar reputation in the marketplace. Some organizations require each chapter to have 20 or more members to maintain membership; other organizations allow group autonomy and the ability to form smaller chapters based on their goals and vision.

Photo Credit: OnTrack International

4. Public Speaking Skills Enhancement – Let’s face it. If you have never been comfortable speaking in front of groups, it can be a little intimidating, however, the right referral group will set you up for success and help you develop these skills every time you meet. The better you get at presenting in front of groups of people, the better your sales skills will develop. Look for organizations that help you develop your elevator pitch as it will serve you well as you navigate the other networking opportunities around you.

Photo Credit: CNN

5. Masterminding – Look for groups that allow periodic departures from the regular meeting agenda to offer a mastermind session for members who are not receiving referrals or are experiencing a business challenge. Group success comes when every member is willing to help every person around the table to be successful.

Photo Credit: Score.org

6. Internal Reporting Capabilities – Referral groups will offer some type of internal reporting system within a website or app. Look for systems that allow you to enter referrals, track revenue, track face-to-face meetings, track recruiting goals, attendance, etc. You can only gauge success with up-to-date tracking.

Several successful referral organizations exist around the world and all offer different benefits. Some people prefer highly structured, weekly meetings within large group settings while other people prefer more intimate settings with some autonomy within a more flexible structure. Whichever you choose, be ready to show up, give more than you receive, and learn. Over time, the art of referrals and connecting will become like second nature to you and you will find yourself with a vast network of people you can rely on. Adopting Zig Ziglar’s philosophy of helping as many people get what they want will, in turn, help you get what you want. And you may find you rely less and less on some of the other networking events that tend to consume the time you could be using to continue cultivating the networks you’ve developed through the referral process.

The Measure Of

Photo credit: William Ivan, Unsplash

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear states, “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to become a good measure. In our data-driven world, we tend to overvalue numbers and undervalue anything ephemeral, soft, or difficult to quantify.

We mistakenly think the factors we can measure are the only factors that exist, but just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing and just because you can’t measure something doesn’t mean it’s not important at all.”

This is true not only when tracking personal habits but also in business, social, and church settings. You may hear terms like LARGEST, MOST, IN THE HISTORY OF, and the quantifiers could continue. What you don’t hear about is attrition rates, unqualified credentials, returns and exchanges, and lack of true structure and solid reporting measures.

As humans we tend to gravitate toward anything that claims to be “the best,” and anything that has a form of competitive nature to it or promises some chance of “win.” Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to win that flashy new car or vacation or night out on the town or healing or favor (ouch!)?

In my experience, it comes down to two things: integrity and consistency. If you build with those two factors in mind and refuse to lure others into a bait and trap situation that over promises but under delivers, you will look back 5 years later and realize you are exactly where you wanted to be with people who value you as a person rather than just being their bottom line. Furthermore, you will be known as a person others can fully trust, and that is something you really can’t measure.

A Yellow Balloon

LOVE this photo of Josh Cropp and his wife, Natalie. The traditional blue and pink “expecting” balloons offset by a pop of yellow sets the tone for the excitement written all over Natalie’s face. Josh – the practical one – cracks me up with his sensible grin. I’d love to have seen thought bubbles rising up with what was going through his mind.

As I discussed in another post, I aim to surround myself with people who are better than me in some area because they have something I want, and I want to learn how to get it. I respect their integrity, mind, ethics, goals, vision, heart, challenges, triumphs, stories, experience – all of it.

They are real, honest, open, willing coaches, and philanthropic minded. They make a difference.

Josh is one of those people. He’s a wealth advisor, and while, yes, he knows more in that arena than I do, the one thing that continues to draw me to his office for a quarterly check-in is his high skill of execution. We met today and discussed the fact that I’m a creative at heart (yellow balloon). If you know anything about creatives, we get nothing done unless we surround ourselves with those who can help us execute a plan of action. That’s Josh. He has fantastic philanthropic ideas and genuinely cares for and loves the communities he lives and works in. He loves his family. He’s a good friend. He’s a long hauler, seeing the end in sight and knowing what it’s gonna take to get back to the basics to stay on target with the mission.

He provided great feedback regarding not only some business goals we work on together in another setting, but also some other civic minded future opportunities I am considering as I continue to hash out who I am post loss of loved ones, former career dreams, etc.

Thanks Josh for being a solid guy.

Yet another experience you can’t put a pricetag on.

#peoplematter

My Life as a Connector

As a little girl, I can’t say I ever dreamed of “being a connector.” When I began to think back over my life, I realized I’ve actually been connecting people to things they want since I was in the 4th grade. My very first connection was for my schoolmate, Ginger who loved Barry Manilow. My mom had an extra copy of his Greatest Hits album, and I asked if I could gift it to Ginger. To this day, she remains a huge fan of Manilow and has seen him in concert many times. 40 years later, Ginger and I even met up at an AirBnb and had our picture taken together with a copy of the same album that the owners had added as part of the decor.

You may ask what all this has to do with my profession, and it links back to my personal mission statement which is “transforming lives through the power of connections.

My philosophy of connecting is “who can I connect this person with to lead to the transformation they are looking for?” In my opinion, connecting people should always have the goal of making a difference, not just to meet quotas or make yourself look good. Perhaps someone needs a connection to an educator because they want to go back to school and transform their future by obtaining the degree they stopped working on 20 years ago. Or maybe another person is suffering from a chronic illness and needs a connection to a health and wellness professional who is truly interested in their entire wellbeing. Then again, there are entrepreneurs, business owners, and salespeople who are looking to increase their business and want to be plugged into a proven system that helps them educate others on how best to refer them. I’ve even had people ask me if I could help make a love connection, and I’ve been known to do that too! I refer people all across the board – from addicts and trauma survivors needing introductions to good therapists to kitchen and bath designers needing introductions to realtors and mortgage brokers. I don’t discriminate with how I might help and add value to a person’s life. I consider it a privilege from God that I get to be a catalyst of change and a beacon of hope to those who seek transformation.

I feel beyond privileged to be a connector in my community among many business people who truly live in the spirit of giving, who raise themselves to a higher standard, and who expect nothing less of the colleagues and clients they encourage and support on a daily basis. Here are my thoughts on connections and referrals:

  1. I aim to be a servant leader and it is my desire to lead with excellence and grow the businesses of my clients by providing the support, training, knowledge, and event and meeting opportunities which allow for relationship building and teaching colleagues how to be a reciprocal referral source.
  2. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Connection is my calling. I desire to use my network, knowledge, and experience to achieve not only my dreams and goals but for all those who choose to do business with me. Meeting people who want something different, inspiration, and an introduction to a way of business life that will change the face of their business is something I will always love.
  3. Referrals are hands down the most effective marketing tool a business can invest in. If one will fully immerse themselves in a culture of learning and excellence, and take advantage of every tool available, there is no room for failure. I always suggest a business person participate in several handpicked networking groups and attend with intention and goals in mind. These groups should include one exclusive, invitation-only referral organization, a civic-minded organization, a mastermind, a free networking group, and a social group. These five types of groups, if managed properly, will set you up for the best success possible.  Stay tuned for my upcoming articles on the benefits and challenges of each group.  Click here to read about the benefits of exclusive referral groups.

Priceless Valentine

LOVE this photo of me and Katie Bailey from today’s Valentine lunch. The addition of pixie dust makes me smile.

She’s like my big sis in business. SO much love and respect for this woman.

If you know anything about my business life, you know I will be the first to tell you that I aim to surround myself with people who are better than me in some area. Why? Because they have something I want, and I want to learn how to get it. I respect their integrity, mind, ethics, goals, vision, heart, challenges, triumphs, stories, experience – all of it.

They are real, honest, open, willing coaches, and philanthropic minded. They make a difference.

Katie is one of those people. She knows way more than I will ever know about financial markets and how they work and how to set yourself up for a successful retirement. Why? Because she’s been talking numbers since she was a little girl. It was a way of family life for her.

If you take nothing else from this post, think about this…surround yourself with people you can learn from, who live and breathe and ARE their craft in life. Business will be done right and fair and honest and you’ll know you’re making a difference in the community because people know you really do care and you really have their best interest at heart.

In my opinion, you can’t put a pricetag on that.

#peoplematter

Side Hustles: A Career Consultant’s Perspective

When Suzy Lawson with The Entrepreneuress Within reached out to me this week to ask me to submit a guest post about different types of businesses and how to choose a side hustle from my perspective as a career consultant, client stories began rushing back to me as I reminisced on my time with each one. I also thought of how interesting her request was to have fallen on Easter weekend as millions will pause for a brief moment to celebrate resurrection and life.

To date Career Direct, a division of Crown Financial (the company I’m certified with) has helped over a quarter million people find direction in line with their personalities, interests, skills, and values. We’ve been featured in Relevant Magazine and Fox News, and universities you may have heard of (Lee in Cleveland, TN and Liberty in Virginia, to name a few) are using our assessments among their student bodies.

It’s the assessment that helped me move forward with my MBA, which in turn made me eligible to teach in a local college. It also helped me realize my passions and gave me “permission” to expand The Referrals Group into the Southeast. We’ve started three new groups since June 2017 and will be starting a fourth in a few more weeks with more on the horizon.

While I’m building my passion, being certified has allowed me to make extra income by helping others who are struggling with what they either want to do as a side hustle or a complete career change. It cost me several hundred dollars to be certified, but I made that back the first week. If someone offers you a side hustle opportunity without some sort of investment (whether it be time, money, or other resources), be wary. There’s always an opportunity cost if it’s legitimate. In addition, don’t overprice your side hustle. But don’t underprice it either. Research. Know the ins and out. Become an expert at it.

I haven’t had people balk at my pricing for the assessment process as it sets people up for future success. I know it works and have witnessed transformation, so I never apologize for my pricing. It’s worth every penny and then some.

I’m sure some of you might be thinking, “Yeah, I’ve taken those personality tests, and they’re pretty much all the same. They tell me I need to be a _____________, and I don’t want to be a _____________.” Or maybe you don’t want to go back to school or maybe you feel too old and you’ve missed your chance. This is why it’s important to have someone who has been trained and is skilled in reading people, interpreting results, asking the right questions, etc to help you delve deep and pull out those dreams that may have gotten buried long ago. Or if your son or daughter is on their way to college, it helps to have an unbiased person who has no agenda whatsoever help them peel back the layers of who they are and give them some tools for future decision making.

I’m honored to have worked with the kid who couldn’t decide between studying to be an orthopaedic surgeon or a financial advisor. I was able to help him work through those two scenarios, and for him it came down to his personal values of time, family, friends, and travel. He’s now a student at the University of GA working on his MBA in finance.

And the woman who was in mid career transition who started a non profit based on her passion for animals.

And the former addict who needed to be reminded he has been given so many gifts and talents and that his passion for sales was legitimate despite what his father wanted.

And the beautiful young woman who suffered from severe depression who now has a wide open beautiful world of opportunity in her future.

I tell you these stories because at the end of the day, if our work isn’t contributing to people’s lives in a positive manner, perhaps we need to rethink what we are doing.

What is your life work doing to help other people? Are you working in your passion? If not, this week The Entrepreneuress Within has provided some great tools to help you get unstuck and to give you ideas and choices to do something different.

If I can ever be of service to you to help you in the first step of discovering yourself again so you can have some fresh wind in your sails to pursue a new adventure, I’m always a click away.

Thanks again Suzy for seeking my perspective. Happy Easter weekend everyone. May the resurrection of our Lord remind you He makes all things new, including our side hustles.

#PeopleMatter

So, You’re the Networking Queen (or King). Show Me Your Treasure.

gettyimages_530686143-56a8321d3df78cf7729cf3e2

Business networking is all the rage and has been for quite some time. Various networking buzz words abound such as referral networking, social networking, professional networking and so on. Technically speaking, I’ve been in the “referral industry” since my elementary school days when I made my first connection to my schoolmate Ginger Lumpkin who had just discovered Barry Manilow. My mom had an album of all his greatest hits and I was able to “connect and refer.” As a result my mom gave Ginger that album (which sparked a lifelong musical love affair for her). Ginger caught up with me a few months ago while she was visiting Chattanooga and what old album was in the AirBnB? You guessed it.

Ginger Lumpkin 2017
40+ Years later, she’s still a fan of Barry.

Referrals: Challenging questions

But I digress. Professionally speaking, I’ve been in the referral industry for over 10 years. It’s in my blood. It’s the connection that excites me most – who do I know that can help you be more successful and move you towards your best future? However, this industry comes with its own challenges. Big questions exist like, “How well do I know the person I’m referring?” “What happens if my referral ends up being a disaster?” “What happens when I’m the one doing most of the referring to the detriment of my own financial well-being?” “How often do I need to network to keep my referral pipeline full?”

Networking: Which format is best?

And then there’s the actual task of networking to get those referrals. A Google search of the term “business networking” today produced 9.5 million results, while the term “referral networking” produced just over 414,000 results. “Referrals” produced a whopping 53.3 million results! One may ask why that’s relevant, and the answer is because there is an art to networking, and if we don’t understand how to network, we will forever be running from one networking event to the next with no hard data to show the success we’ve experienced in doing so. And may I be so bold to say that just because a well known face appears at every networking event over and over again, does not necessarily mean they are successfully living out a true referral networking model. A name is just that – the question is how is the name benefiting people in a positive manner? A person could probably spend all day every day at the number of networking events that exist, but without a clear vision and purpose, we might as well stay home.

Networking: I love you. I hate you.

Frankly, I have a love/hate relationship with networking because there are so many different belief systems as to how we should go about it. Some would say we should go to as many events and get as many connections as we can because it’s a numbers game. Others prefer to be members of exclusive referral groups where only one person from each professional category is granted membership. Still others prefer to do most of their networking online via LinkedIn or Alignable.  My opinion? It’s not about the venue or the method – it’s about why and how. Once we discover and learn those two essential keys, the business of networking will transform you both professionally and personally.

Networking Trolls

As most reading this already know, I prefer the exclusive referral group method in conjunction with utilizing the online sites I mentioned above. I detest attending various “events” for the sake of “being seen.” If you see me at an event, there’s probably a really good reason for it, not because I’m “trolling.” Networking “trolls” are what give networking a bad rap. We’ve all likely experienced them. We see them at every event. They make it a point to get their business cards in everyone’s hand and may even go around the room placing their flyers and business cards at everyone’s seat. And my all time favorite – when we enter into conversation with them, they monopolize it by ensuring we know that they know all the “important” people and have an insane need to impress us. Can anyone relate? (And if you are one – stop it! Eat a slice of humble pie and drop the act and just be authentic and transparent!)

Networking: Why and How?

No matter which networking method we choose to embrace, we must know why we are networking. Obviously we all need to take care of our financial obligations, but if there’s not a bigger purpose behind our wallet, perhaps we need to take a good look in the mirror and consider there might be some spiritual and personal development we need to pursue.

Why

We spend the majority of our lives working and we have an impact on the people we cross paths with even if we don’t realize it. The very first question I ask a business client or a student when I consult with them is “Why did you choose this line of work or field of study?” Most of the time I either receive an “I don’t know” answer or “Because I want to help people.” I continue asking why until we hit the heart of who that person is at the core. For example, I do what I do because I am all to familiar with personal tragedy and loss, and I know what it takes to rise up out of shattered dreams and innocence and get back in the game with confidence and new sense of purpose. There are many people I need to connect with to inspire them to keep moving forward. My personal why statement is, “I exist to elevate the lives of others through C.E.I.R.S. (Connect. Engage. Inspire. Refer. Succeed).” Every choice I make, every event I attend, every connection I make must align with my why statement, otherwise I’m doing myself and others a disservice.

How

The second key to successful networking is the how. There is no sugar coating this one – be a person of integrity and follow up. We need to say what we mean, do what we say, and follow up to ensure expectations were met, and if not fix it if it is within our control to do so. I have taught people over the years the how behind networking, and for me the best way to learn that is in an exclusive referral group format such as The Referrals Group. Being laser-focused on building our skills as master networkers is the secret to our own success, because Zig Ziglar was right when he said, “You will get all you want in life when you help others get all they want in life.” It’s the oxymoron of our lives – give to get.

Treasure

In conclusion, as the title indicated, if we claim to be networking queens or kings, we must have “treasure” to show for it. How many lives are we positively impacting? How many clients wouldn’t know what to do if they didn’t have our expertise and help? How many people refer us to others? How many people are following our lead? How much of our true self do our family and friends get? How do we help the poor and the needy? How do we invest in the next generation? The answers to these questions and more will show us what state our treasure boxes are in. What are we filling them with?