Tag Archive | "Forbes"

7 Face-To-Face Networking Mistakes That Could Kill Your Professional Image


Despite all the online ways to link up with potential clients, I still believe making in-person connections needs to be a part of every business owner’s networking regimen. When you’re face-to-face with people, you can form bonds more easily because they get a more complete picture of who you are through your voice, body language, and appearance, reports Forbes.

That’s powerful and wonderful … unless you get careless.

While face-to-face networking can result in prospects gravitating to you, it also holds the potential to drive them in the opposite direction. Could your networking habits be turning off other professionals and causing you to lose out on business opportunities?

Avoid these networking no-nos:

1. Interrupting conversations. “How rude!” That’s what I think when someone walks up without apology and interrupts a conversation I’m having with another person.  Although discussions won’t typically be too in-depth at networking events, it’s still in bad taste to cut off conversations between others.

2. Practicing the “hard sell.” Want a surefire way to make connections eager to avoid you? Then push your products and services right from the start when meeting them. Doing so makes you appear aggressive as well as desperate—definitely not the impression you want to make!

3. Complaining. Remember, you’re there to connect with other professionals. While commenting on the venue location, décor, hors d’oeuvres, or other amenities can help ease you into a dialogue with someone, it can have a negative impact if your words are uncomplimentary. Others might perceive you as snide and ungracious.

4. Being all “me, me, me” and not taking an interest in others. Sure, you’re doing great things and everyone should know more about that. But you’ll do yourself a greater service if you forgo making yourself the center of attention and instead listen to what others have to share about their businesses. By asking open-ended questions and turning a keen ear to their needs, you can assess whether or not they may be a viable prospect. And then later you can follow up to share more about what you can offer them.

5. Having a few too many cocktails. Woot! Yes, networking functions often come in the form of mixers with a bit of a party atmosphere. But I’ve seen otherwise polished professionals turn into hot messes because they didn’t control their alcohol consumption at events.

6. Speaking ill of someone else in the room or about your clients. No, no, no. Don’t EVER do this. You never know who knows whom. Need I say more?

7. Dressing like you don’t care. Although many networking events are relatively casual, take care not to go too far with the informality. If you’re not sure what the dress code is, I recommend erring on the side of slightly overdressed. Worst-case scenario will be that you look a tad more professional than everyone else. No one will think less of you for that.

Done with attention to making a first-rate first impression, face-to-face networking can open doors to lasting professional relationships. Put your best, most engaging you out there every time—and take care to avoid networking missteps that could turn off prospective customers.

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Five Ways To Win At Sales Even In The Worst Conditions


While we’re starting to forget the economic recession of 2008, those dark days left a lasting impression on how successful salespeople deal with a downturn, reports Forbes.

At the time, I was at CareerBuilder, heading the Pacific Northwest territory for the mid-markets division. I can clearly remember the uphill battle our team faced while calling customers and prospects to renew job postings. In order to succeed, we started learning about where our customers were failing and what they were still spending money on. We stopped having the same old sales conversations.

It turns out we had been focusing on the wrong competition all along. They still needed to hire talent, but the top or niche candidates they wanted couldn’t be found on traditional job sites. To remedy this, we pitched ourselves and our sites for the next two years on selling against recruiters instead of simply being a job site. We focused on hard-to-fill and executive openings and found customers willing to spend big budgets to solve key needs in their business.

Even with an economic downturn, we didn’t blame something that wasn’t under our control. Instead, we took a hard look at our sales strategies and found areas that would allow us to prosper even in grim situations. Here are some top tips to maintain peak performance in a downturn:

  1. Use technology and data to make yourself as efficient as possible. On average, sales representatives are only spending one-third of their time selling. They spend the other two-thirds on research, follow-up, and administrative tasks. With the current sales tech environment, this should no longer be the case. There has never been a more exciting time to be in sales, given the amount of sales and marketing technology at our disposal. It seems like every week there’s another tool that can help to automate segments of the sales process that are normally manual and cumbersome. Whether it’s automating follow-ups using Rebump or logging all sales activity in Gmail with Streak, there’s a tech tool out there that can help you be much more efficient in your day-to-day.
  2. Think and act positively. People can sense desperation through your communication and that desperation leads to a lack of credibility amongst your customers. Remaining honest yet confident under tough circumstances is key to continued sales wins. To remain confident and optimistic, remember the high of closing deal after deal and the way you felt and acted on those days. Attitudes, both good and bad, rub off on the people you’re speaking with, so always make sure you remain positive.
  3. Focus on out-of-the-box business challenges. Like the CareerBuilder example above, it’s important to think about different ways to position your product so that its use cases are positioned to solve new or bigger challenges. When the current positioning isn’t working, it’s time to change the conversation. Strive to use the “Challenger Approach” sales style, which more than 50 percent of all high-performing sales representatives rely on. Ask questions, push your customers to areas they might be familiar with but don’t label as important, and find solutions to problems they didn’t know existed. Don’t be locked into a course of action that is failing and be always be willing to adapt and find new ways to position yourself when conditions aren’t in your favor.
  4. Block out the noise from your negative peers. Most people want to be good. But being great is a burden very few take on because they aren’t willing to put in the extra work necessary to get there. There are specific traits that separate great salespeople from the good, but the biggest difference is that they look at a downturn or a rejection as a challenge that they have to overcome. Negative peers will look to a downturn as an excuse for poor performance, or worse, no performance. Block out the noise and focus on getting better and improving yourself.
  5. Learn hard, work smart. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he frequently mentions the 10,000-hour rule: it takes around that amount of time to achieve excellence and mastery in a field. It’s not rare to find people who put in long hours and grind it out to achieve sales excellence every month. They either get the job done or come pretty close consistently. But as the psychologist behind the rule, Anders Ericsson, says: “You don’t get benefits from mechanical repetition, but by adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal.”
  6. The key to above-average sales performance is to do both. Work the hours needed but continuously improve your sales execution by always learning. If you put in more hours than anyone, focus on improving every day, and constantly be looking to learn, you will see the results pay off.

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How Startups Can Get Media Attention Without Hiring a PR Agency


In my last post, I outlined four reasons why early-stage startups shouldn’t hire PR firms. There are exceptions to just about every rule, but I stand by that advice for the vast majority of cases, reports Forbes.

Still, that piece lacked actionable guidance for startups to get press on their own. This post will provide that guidance.

In simple terms, startups have two options when ultimately choosing not to hire a PR firm:

1.) Hustle it out on their own.

2.) Find cheaper, non-traditional help.

If you’re considering these options, I recommend sticking with the first. Finding high-quality, non-traditional PR help is very hard for anyone to do, but it’s particularly hard for startups. The freelance PR market is fragmented and opaque, with plenty of dubious actors who can point to a couple minor successes, amidst a history of failures, to lure new clients. 

And as a population largely lacking in the chops to effectively evaluate PR professionals, startups are easy prey for bad actors. You’ll likely spend a long, long time trying to find one of the few high-quality freelancers out there, or end up getting fleeced in the process. My recommendation is to instead spend that time making headway on your own.

I’ll outline just how you can do that.

Gut and Relationships

In simple terms, you hire professional PR help for two reasons. First, they should provide a finely-tuned sense of what does and does not work as a press story, along with a similarly finely-tuned view of how to match those story angles with different publications. Second, they should have the relationships at those publications to get stories placed.

That’s it. Gut and relationships.

So when you think about going the hustle-it-out route, you should think about it in those terms. How are you going to make up for your lack of experience and relationships?

Gut

Let’s start with the first component—the fact that you probably have no idea how to make your company interesting to the press. If you have some effort to spare, there are some easy ways to make up for this deficit.

Before you do anything, you’ll need to acquire a solid understanding for how the press talks about your industry. Step one: head over to Google and spend as much time as you can getting a feel for what people are talking about in your space. What are the big questions, controversies or trends? How do different publications approach these topics? What are people getting wrong? What are they missing?

Basically, you need to soak yourself in relevant media so that, eventually, you can internalize the different lenses through which reporters approach topics and companies in your industry. Think backwards from headlines. How can you see your company plausibly fitting into the conversation?

Next, you still need some professional advice.

As the founder of a startup, odds are that you have some kind of moderately effective network. You may have investors, mentors, advisors, other founder friends, etc. Somewhere within that network is someone who knows a PR professional. It’s even possible that this PR professional knows what they’re talking about.

Find a way to talk to that PR professional and milk them for 15 minutes of advice. If they’re any good, they’ll prevent you from making any number of stupid mistakes within the first five minutes and possibly give you a sense of the most promising angles for your business after the first 15. They’ll also be helpful for tactical tips and etiquette. (I.e., “How long should I wait to follow-up with reporters?”)

And if you don’t have a PR professional in your network? If you live in a media-dense market like New York or San Francisco, there are almost certainly events that have media professionals crawling all over them. Just go wherever reporters are, and you’ll probably find three PR people for every journalist. Since tech PR people need new business almost as much as they need to cozy up to journalists, they’re generally happy to talk to startup founders about a couple of their issues in these situations.

If that’s not an option, find someone who looks like they know what they’re talking about online and cold e-mail them. Some may not take the call, but a lot will. 

Relationships

For early-stage startups, PR firms often appear most valuable for their relationships with the media. This is valid, though you’d be surprised by how many firms survive by just cold-emailing hundreds of reporters. 

That said, relationships with the media are still enormously valuable. As a startup founder, you’ll never be able to match the rolodex of a quality firm, but the truth is that you don’t need to. At your stage, you likely don’t need an expensive, sustained communications strategy. You just need a couple of pieces of decent press, and a couple of relationships to get them. With a little work, that’s definitely achievable.

Here’s how to make that happen:

1.) Again, use your network.

Like I mentioned earlier, as a startup founder you should have some reasonably robust network. There are probably people within that network—investors, founders, consultants—who are on friendly terms with one or more journalists. Find those people, ask for introductions and go from there.

2.) Be helpful.

In order to do their jobs well, journalists have to continuously get information from people in the industries they cover. Guess what? You work in one of the industries they cover. By virtue of that fact, you probably have insights and opinions that could be very useful for them. 

As one prominent tech reporter noted, “If people are going to feed me information, then I’m much more likely to be their friend.”

In practice, this means providing helpful opinions and facts to relevant reporters via social media or a very concise, non-salesy email. 

3.) Go to events.

Again, this works best in a media dense market, but even smaller cities often have local reporters hanging around conferences or panels. Go to these events, talk to reporters like a normal human, and follow-up politely. To find relevant events, I recommend Meetup.com and local newsletters like Startup Digest or, in New York, Gary’s Guide.  

4.) Send thoughtful, targeted emails.

Even without relationships, an interesting product and angle, along with a couple of human-sounding emails from the founder, can do wonders. I gave this advice (pro bono) to the Columbia freshmen behind Readism, for example, and they ended up with articles in The Next WebPC WorldLifehackerBustle and Digital Trends.

Trust me, before they began the process they were just as clueless as you are now. But with a little effort you too can save yourself a couple grand on a PR firm and still get the press you deserve. 

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Redefining Leadership: How One Leader Changed His Ways


Behind every good company culture, there’s an even better leader, reports Forbes. In my experience, a workplace takes on the personalities of their leaders, for better or for worse. In fact, an honest evaluation of your employees’ opinions will likely clarify the exact places where leadership and culture meet, or in some cases clash to create a disconnect – and that disconnect really matters. When employees are unhappy with leadership, productivity drops, turnover rates spike and bottom lines suffer. This begs the question, why isn’t there more of a focus on people as the leading indicator of company success? Are we aware of how our employees perceive our leadership styles?

For over a year now, I’ve been working closely with a senior leader at our company, Chris. Through his story, I want to convince you to side with me on one big idea: that the “directive” form of leadership, where we simply tell people what to do and they do it, is not the best route to success. Although it is often revered as the default model in the corporate world, there’s an approach that is much more effective – and leaders like Chris prove that it is possible to change your ways.

Having moved from running my own small company to working in a large, public company, I got to know many leaders like Chris, who had climbed the corporate ladder very successfully, hitting or exceeding their targets and getting that next promotion. Chris had been promoted multiple times, he regularly met and exceeded goals and metrics – and he subscribed to a traditional form of leadership. Like many, Chris attributed his achievements to his blend of command and control leadership with a non-apologetic drive for success. But when our company executives emphasized the notion that effective leadership meant not only hitting targets, but also covering the people side of things, we challenged his understanding of success.

As a first step, I worked with data from our most recent employee engagement survey. Our leaders were used to understanding things in terms of metrics, so this proved to be the most effective way to deliver the message.

As suspected, we found that while some of our leaders met and exceeded their company targets, their teams were feeling left behind. The data showed that Chris’s team was reporting low engagement and personal investment, and often felt disconnected from him as a leader. When Chris received that feedback, he was not only shocked – he was hurt. Nobody wants to hear that they’re viewed poorly, especially by their own team. As such, I had to approach him with great sensitivity and work to earn his trust.

Aligned with this traditional mode of leadership, leaders like Chris prioritized goal attainment over everything else – even the well-being of their own employees. With a little guidance, I hoped to help Chris realize the positive impact of growing the careers and lives of his own employees and to feel inspired to adjust his approach.

Because Chris was so emotionally impacted by the results of the survey, I found that he was receptive to the idea of working with me. Chris was realizing that his upward mobility in the company would depend on his ability to adopt a more collaborative leadership style – and personally, he wanted to be more well-regarded by his team. Although we all operate differently, most of us want to be liked by our peers. That base desire is a great motivator to start what can otherwise be a daunting process.

It was time to get to work. We started in on a series of coaching sessions that provided Chris with small steps that could make a big impact on his team. We set realistic goals that came down to simple adjustments in style – how to be inclusive in meetings, how to listen to employee ideas, and how to care for employees by showing them compassion in the totality of their lives. We conducted focus groups with front-line team members, we moved away from delegation and embraced inclusion – Chris even attended a team bowling night.

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9 Habits Of Profoundly Influential People


Influential people have a profound impact on everyone they encounter. Yet, they achieve this only because they exert so much influence inside, on themselves, reports Forbes.

We see only their outside.

We see them innovate, speak their mind, and propel themselves forward toward bigger and better things.

And, yet, we’re missing the best part.

The confidence and wherewithal that make their influence possible are earned. It’s a labor of love that influential people pursue behind the scenes, every single day.

And while what people are influenced by changes with the season, the unique habits of influential people remain constant. Their focused pursuit of excellence is driven by nine habits that you can emulate and absorb until your influence expands:

1. They think for themselves

Influential people aren’t buffeted by the latest trend or by public opinion. They form their opinions carefully, based on the facts. They’re more than willing to change their mind when the facts support it, but they aren’t influenced by what other people think, only by what theyknow.

2. They are graciously disruptive

Influential people are never satisfied with the status quo. They’re the ones who constantly ask, “What if?” and “Why not?” They’re not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, and they don’t disrupt things for the sake of being disruptive; they do it to make things better.

3. They inspire conversation

When influential people speak, conversations spread like ripples in a pond. And those ripples are multidirectional; influencers inspireeveryone around them to explore new ideas and think differently about their work.

4. They leverage their networks

Influential people know how to make lasting connections. Not only do they know a lot of people, they get to know their connections’ connections. More importantly, they add value to everyone in their network. They share advice and know how, and they make connections between people who should get to know each other.

5. They focus only on what really matters

Influential people aren’t distracted by trivialities. They’re able to cut through the static and clutter, focus on what matters, and point it out to everyone else. They speak only when they have something important to say, and they never bore people with idle banter.

6. They welcome disagreement

Influential people do not react emotionally and defensively to dissenting opinions—they welcome them. They’re humble enough to know that they don’t know everything and that someone else might see something they missed. And if that person is right, they embrace the idea wholeheartedly because they care more about the end result than being right.

7. They are proactive

Influential people don’t wait for things like new ideas and new technologies to find them; they seek those things out. These early adopters always want to anticipate what’s next. They’re influential because they see what’s coming, and they see what’s coming because they intentionally look for it. Then they spread the word.

8. They respond rather than react

If someone criticizes an influential person for making a mistake, or if someone else makes a critical mistake, influential people don’t react immediately and emotionally. They wait. They think. And then they deliver an appropriate response. Influential people know how important relationships are, and they won’t let an emotional overreaction harm theirs. They also know that emotions are contagious, and overreacting has a negative influence on everyone around them.

9. They believe

Influential people always expect the best. They believe in their own power to achieve their dreams, and they believe others share that same power. They believe that nothing is out of reach, and that belief inspires those around them to stretch for their own goals. They firmly believe that one person can change the world.

Bringing It All Together

To increase your influence, you need to freely share your skills and insights, and you must be passionate in your pursuit of a greater future.

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Do Genes Determine Entrepreneurial Success?


The impact of genes on our life choices and outcomes is controversial – but that doesn’t stop it being fascinating. If it turned out that our genes contributed heavily to entrepreneurial success I, for one, would really want to know. The public policy implications for how to encourage entrepreneurship and even whether to redistribute more through taxation would be enormous. Although I would prefer a world in which entrepreneurs were made, not born, it’s better to know how the world works rather than how we want it to work, reports Forbes.

Luckily, for idealists like me, current research suggests the role of genetics in likelihood and success for entrepreneurship isn’t too strong. I don’t know this by trawling through the academic literature, but by going to the source of much of that thinking: Nicos Nicolaou, Professor and the GE Capital Chair of Mid-Market Economics at Warwick Business School, who is a world-leading expert on this subject.

Philip Salter: What’s the state of the academic literature on genetics and entrepreneurship?

Nicos Nicolaou: Research has shown that genetic factors affect both the tendency to recognize entrepreneurial opportunities and the tendency to start businesses. Studies have used large samples of identical and fraternal twins to disentangle the role of genes and environment in entrepreneurship. Identical twins share all of their genes while fraternal twins share, on average, half of their segregating genes. As a result, greater twin concordances – the probability that a twin is an entrepreneur given that its co-twin is also an entrepreneur – for entrepreneurship between pairs of identical than between pairs of fraternal twins can only be attributed to genetic factors.

The heritability estimates for entrepreneurship are around 30-35%. This actually means that environmental factors are actually much more important than genetic factors in recognizing entrepreneurial opportunities and starting new businesses.

Salter: To what extent is the decision to become an entrepreneur impacted by an individual’s genetics?

Nicolaou: Although genetic factors account for some of the variance in entrepreneurship it is only through interaction with environmental factors that any genetic influence is manifested.

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