Business Cards and Networking in Houston

Rule #1 of Networking: Be Prepared…Always

Each day we go to work, out to lunch, run errands or a number of other activities that make up your daily agenda. As part of your daily regiment, do you ever leave the house without your shoes on? Of course not. There are times that you forget to grab something you needed from time to time but there are some things you just don’t forget…like your shoes or a shirt.

It is safe to say that getting dressed is definitely part of your regular and daily routine. It should be. Your wallet is another thing you always have with you. However, as a business owner or sales professional there is something else that should always be with you when you leave the house. You could even say it should be part of your wardrobe…your business cards.

A networking opportunity can present itself at any time. Houston is filled with people and places that can benefit from your products or services. That being the case, you need to always be prepared. If a conversation strikes up and they ask you for your card you don’t want to say “I don’t have a card with me”. You definitely don’t want that to be associated with your first impression.

Here are a few suggestions to help you be better prepared for the spontaneous networking opportunity. Always have four or five business cards in your wallet. Have a stack in your car. Have a stack in your spouses car too. If you have a gym bag or brief case, make sure you have business cards in there as well. Routinely check each of these strategic locations to be sure you replenish them when needed. You want to always have a business card at your disposal so if you need one to give to someone, you’ll be prepared.

Business Networking in Houston - Telling Your Story

What’s Your Story? Professional Business Networking Tip

As business owners and business professionals, we have a unique “story” about how we started our business and/or how we wound up in a particular industry.  Professional Business Networking is a great place to share your story.  What is your story?  Think about it.  People are intrigued by good stories so this is a great talking point to have and apply in your networking opportunities.

Your story is what sets you apart from others.  When others identify with your story, you can develop a strong relationship or following.  The life experiences that have led to where you currently are can have a profound effect on others such as your customers, vendors or even your competitors. Your story can lead those impacted to respect you more, give you referrals and provide positive word of mouth.  In other words, they can be ambassadors for you…all because they identified with your story.

Did you grow up in Houston, Texas or someplace else?  What was your first job?  Did you always want to do what you do now? There are so many elements that make your story one of a kind. Broadcast it.  Share it.  Be proud of it and tell it often.

If you are not exactly sure what your story is (in detail with specific examples), then write it down and document your story. You are the author and your story is your life.  Your book is a gift to others and a tool to use in your professional business networking.  Remember that your story attracts others and attracting others is good for business!

Building Relational Capital Through Business Networking in Houston TX

Building Relational Capital Through Business Networking

When starting a business, typically a capital investment is made to get the business off the ground and operating.  Over time, profitability occurs and the overall capital of the business increases.  The more capital a company has the more financial success the business achieves.

There is another type of account business owners and operators have.  It is a Relational Account.  Here, instead of monetary growth, the relationships you establish and cultivate build a strong balance in your relational account.

The relational account you have can have a direct impact on the bank account of your business.  In fact, there is a correlation from one to the other.  The more Relational Capital you have the more growth you will experience with your Financial Capital. They go hand in hand.

Because of this, professional business networking is vital to the growth of your business. Networking allows you more opportunities to establish, build, grow, nurture, strengthen, cultivate and develop relationships so you can continually make deposits in your relational account.  Over time, your relational account yields interest as your relationships get stronger.  The result is accelerated growth in your Relational Capital.

The more Relational Capital you have the more financial opportunity your business will have.  Houston Texas has many choices when it comes to professional business networking; Texas Community Referral Network (TCRN) is committed to providing the most innovative and valuable networking opportunities available to local businesses.

Be Genuine Business Networking Houston

Genuine Networking

When you are networking, it is important that you are genuine in your conversations and interaction with others. A phony can be spotted a mile away. The last thing you want after you speak with someone is for them to walk away feeling like you were full of it. Genuine interest in them and your earnest desire to get to know them is imperative if you want to be successful at networking. A smile is a good start, however there must be genuine substance behind the smile.

Too often, people are more interested in how many business cards they can collect so they can jam them on their email list or worse yet, call that week and try to “sell” them something. This is the wrong approach. Your networking will be unsuccessful and give you a false sense of reality that networking doesn’t work. Networking does work. It is often the Networker that doesn’t work.

When at a networking function, be sure to not only ask questions but listen to the answers of the person you are connecting with. In fact, doing this in all areas of your life is advantageous both in your professional AND personal life. It is human nature to want someone to listen to them…not just hear them, but listen to them. You may think this sounds like common sense, and it should be but it’s not. Networking functions can be loud and full of distractions, making it easy to lose focus on the person you are talking to. Concentrate on the individual(s) you are talking with and soak it in. Doing this will reflect that you are genuine in your words and actions.

Professional Business Networking can be extremely beneficial to the growth of your business. When done properly, networking can bring about a wealth of ancillary opportunities! The key phrase here is “when done properly”. To do this, you must be genuine. Be yourself, care about others and be a good listener. Do this and you will see an immediate difference in the results of your networking. Oh yeah, don’t forget to smile.

Houston Business Networking - How to Get Great Business Referrals

What is a Good Business Referral?

You may be asking yourself “What do you mean”? You’re thinking all referrals are good referrals, right? No they’re not. It is always good to get referrals for your business, but there is definitely a difference in the quality of a referral. I’ll admit that receiving any kind of referral is better than no referral at all. However, if given the choice, would you rather have a low quality referral or a high quality referral? Exactly…I thought so!

Houston is a big city filled with a lot of choices. In fact, if you narrow it down to just the pocket communities surrounding Houston you’ll find an overload of options. As a result, professional business networking is critical for a business owner. Networking is also vital to anyone in a sales position or someone in a business operations capacity. He who has the most referrals will typically be the industry leader in your market.

How do you receive a quality referral? Well, here is where the Golden Rule comes in to play, “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you”. What I mean is, when you have a referral to give, give it in a quality manner. The best way to do this is to email a virtual introduction to both parties: the one you are referring AND the one you are referring to. This way you are able to give your stamp of approval, allow for communication between both sides of the referral and provide some background for the reason of the referral (wants and needs for one, and service and reliability of the other).

The second method for quality referrals is done through your networking with others. Ask others what kind of referral is good for them. Chances are you will have the opportunity to tell them what kind of referral is good for you. This is always good because it outlines the type of target audience that is best suited for a particular individual. When doing this and expressing your sincere desire to help the other, your networking efforts become mutually benefiting.

The other way is to specify how you’d like to receive the referral. If someone says “I have a referral for you”, then take the opportunity to ask them to email you a virtual introduction (mentioned above) and if they would mind calling the referral as a means of support to the email. Ask for the referral’s contact phone number so you can follow up. When this is done, the result of the referral becoming a customer is extremely high.

Providing quality referrals is good for everyone involved! It is good for the person providing the referral because they can insure that both parties are aware of the other so things go smoothly. It is good for the person needing the referral because they know they are going to be taken care of and everything is transparent in the referral process. And, it is good for the person receiving the referral because they are more likely to have a new customer. Like most things, there is a good way to do something and a bad way to do something. Practice good methods of providing referrals and provide insight to others so they can send you referrals that produce high conversion rates. Remember, referrals…especially good referrals come from people you know and the best way to increase your referral base is through professional business networking.

Building Mini-Relationships for Business Owners in Houston

The Importance of Building Mini-Relationships for Business Owners

Professional Business Networking should be an everyday activity for a business owner, operator or salesperson. Day in and day out we all encounter a variety of different people, some people more than others. Depending on the business or job, an individual may regularly encounter the same person or persons. As a result, this allows you the opportunity to strategically generate mini-relationships. These types of relationships provide a foundation for you to grow your business or give referrals.

An example of these mini-relationships may be with a vendor that has you assigned to their route whom you see twice a week, the person that delivers your mail every day, or the bank teller you frequently see. Over time, with friendly conversations a likability factor is initiated and this regular interaction creates a bond of sorts. When this happens, an element of trust can be generated.

People typically do business with people they like and trust. Additionally, people typically will listen to people they like and trust. Because of this, these mini-relationships can be gold nuggets of opportunity for your business or the business of your referral sources! This is simply a strategic approach to your daily activity. Here’s what I mean by this. If the next twelve months are going to pass by with you regularly and frequently interacting with an individual or individuals, you have a choice to make. You can spend the next twelve months with little to no interaction, a routine “Hello” without authenticity and no effort to engage with them OR spend the next twelve months conversing with them, a genuine greeting with interest about their day and engage with an authentic attitude. Either way you will encounter them the same amount of times over a twelve month period. The only difference is the way you interact with them. One way cultivates opportunity and the other squanders it.

What you do daily with the people you have contact with has an effect on your business as well as the business of your referral sources. I mention both your business AND your referral sources business’ for a good reason. Be strategic when it comes to your business as often as possible. Think of it this way, if all of your referral sources acted in this same regard of developing mini-relationships then you would have all of your referral sources building opportunities that can result in referrals for your business. Always be looking for ways to refer your referral sources if you would like the same. “Providers Prevail”…or otherwise put, “Providers Prosper”. Remember, professional business networking is a two-way street. It is not just about what you can receive but also what you can provide.

When you recognize the power behind your mini-relationships, you can harvest a new strategic element to your professional business networking.

How to Get More Business Referrals: Professional Networking

When I hear people say “I don’t get enough referrals” or “I would like to have more referrals” I kind of laugh (internally of course). The reason for the laugh is because there is a very simple solution but a lot of people do not want to truly change their referral dilemma. The solution to bring about this change is Professional Networking.

Establishing, building, growing, strengthening, developing and cultivating relationships is key to generating referrals. If two people do not know one another, it is extremely difficult to refer the other. In other words, it is unlikely to receive a referral from someone that does not know you. However, the opposite applies for people that DO know one another.

But you can’t stop at the “introduction”. There is an element of consistency that is required. Think about it, when someone gets married…they did not meet their spouse earlier that same day. It took a frequency of time to get to know one another and build trust. Now, building professional relationships is a lot different than that of a marriage, but the principle is the same. Relationships don’t just happen overnight. They take some time to be nurtured.

Here is the cool part. The more developed your relationships the more referrals you receive. Additionally, you are able to give more referrals when you have developed relationships. When you give more referrals you receive more referrals. See how this works?

Do you see the correlation? To broaden your ability to have more referrals you need to have more relationships. The best way to develop more professional relationships is through professional networking. It takes a little time but look at it this way. You can engage in little to no networking for a year and yield little to no referrals, OR you can engage in networking often for a year and have robust referral sources. Either way that year is going to pass by. Wouldn’t it be better to have more referral opportunities than less? It just makes good business sense to network with other business professionals.

If you network regularly, then you already know what I am talking about. If you don’t currently network on a regular basis, then stop waiting for a different result without changing your activity. Start networking regularly. As a bonus, you will see that it is a lot of fun too!

Do You Work It?

Like everything else in life, Networking can be effective AND it can also be ineffective. It’s all up to you. Networking will work if you work it. Conversely, it will not work if you do not work it. You can’t just say “Networking does not work for me.” It may not, but it is not because Networking does not work. Instead, you should say “I don’t work at Networking”. There is a big difference. Make sure this is not your case. Be the one that says “Networking is an incredible part of my business because I make it a priority.”

Cultivating relationships and developing referral sources is critical to your success in today’s professional environment. Take advantage of it and don’t miss out.

What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

By now, most of us are writing “2014” without having to scratch out or delete the previous year. Which means, we have settled in to the New Year. The middle of January also marks the time that more than 50% of the New Year’s relolutions have been broken too.

Often, our resolutions lack accountability to allow them to succeed. Developing more Referral Sources should be a New Year’s resolution for all of us (professionally speaking). Referrals are something we all want more of but seldom take action engaging in the activity necessary to cultivate them. Having opportunities to network with other business professionals is an excellent way to develop Referral Sources.

Create a Buddy Sytem with your Networking. By doing so, you implement a process of accountability to keep you on course…and attending regularly.

Gifts for Houston Business Owners

I hope everyone is ready for Christmas! Christmas time is certainly a time of gifts. As Christmas Day quickly approaches, think about all the gifts you have given throughout the year and those to give in the coming year.

Give The Gift of a Business Referral

The gifts that I speak of are “Referrals”. We have all heard the phrase “It is better to Give than to Receive”, right? Well it’s true. A selfless act is a Blessing….a Blessing that we typically receive from others as well, especially when we give first.

As a member of TCRN, we are fortunate to be part of an organization that is rich with referrals. Who will your next gift be to? Who will your next gift be from? It is important to know ALL of your fellow TCRN members from your Division so you can give a “gift” when you have the chance!