Attitude is Everything in Networking

Last week, one of the big items on my calendar of things to do was a marathon day of radio interviews beginning at 4a.m.  As you can imagine, getting up at an hour when roosters haven’t even begun to think about warming up their vocal chords is not the most enticing of tasks.  However, after stubbing my toe in the pitch blackness and yelping out a word I won’t mention here, I remembered that as the Founder & Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization, I had agreed to do these interviews at such an outrageous hour because it is my responsibility to do whatever needs to be done to network for the organization.

Now, can you imagine what would happen if  I answered the interviewer’s first question—which is always “How are you doing today, Dr. Misner?â€?—by grumbling about how I had stubbed my toe and how I wished I was back in my warm bed?  Well, what would happen is that people would be immediately turned off by my negative attitude and nobody would listen to me.

This brings me to my point that in order to be a master networker, you must always maintain a positive attitude no matter what.  With over two decades of professional networking experience, one thing I’ve learned is how important it is to have a positive attitude in order to successfully network.  And if I’m going to go around telling other people how to discipline and train themselves to network effectively, then I darn well better be walking the walk (or at least limping along, stubbed toe and all) and maintaining the positive attitude of a master networker.

Now that I’ve told you about the second most important trait of a master networker, I figure might as well give you the other nine.  Here they are, ranked in order of their perceived importance to networking:

1. Follows up on referrals
2. Positive attitude
3. Enthusiastic/motivated
4. Trustworthy
5. Good listening skills
6. Networks always
7. Thanks people
8. Enjoys helping
9. Sincere
10. Works their network.  

“Happy” Networking!

Honor the Event

I had a conversation recently with a new BNI member who expressed that she has always been somewhat uncomfortable networking because she’€™s always been afraid of sounding like she’€™s being pushy, and she has a hard time knowing when it’s even €œOK to approach the subject of business with other people.I told her what I’€™ve said countless times over the years to many other people–that the absolute key to networking appropriately is making sure to always honor the event.

You can network any time and any place, but as long as you are honoring the event, there is nothing to be afraid of.However, this means that in some cases you are going to network a lot differently than you would in other cases.For example, networking at a chamber mixer is one thing, while networking at church social event is something completely different.


It is essential to understand that networking does not mean that you should constantly be trying to sell people your products or services. Networking does mean that you should constantly build relationships. The best way to build relationships is to help someone whenever possible.


In order to appropriately network at a church social event, for example, you should make contacts, put people together, help others and build relationships.However, you should not be actively promoting your business.You should simply focus on putting people together and helping others.


Always keep your networking goals in sight at all events and opportunities, but don’€™t become a networking vulture or someone that everyone else runs from when they see you coming. Honor the event and tailor your networking strategies so that you fit in without being tuned out.


Always be sincere; and remember that no one minds the opportunity to exchange information that will benefit one or more people, even when that exchange takes the form of helping someone..

Out of Line – Online!

I belong to several online networks. Recently, I got an email from one of the members whom I don’t know, have never talked to, and was never directly connected to in any way.

He sent out an email to many people in the online community about a new person who just joined. In it, he said: “Letting her join was the biggest mistake you will ever make. . . she is a disaster, is totally unreliable, is a total liar. You. . . have been. . . conned,” he concluded.

Wow, I was amazed that this “stranger” would send me this email. But the impersonal nature of online communications sometimes leads people to behave in ways they could never get away with in person! There are social mores that are easily bypassed when you are not looking someone in the eyes.

Whether you are dealing with face-to-face networking or online networking, the basics of etiquette and emotional intelligence should still apply. You have to be aware that when you are communicating on the internet you are still dealing with real people. Even though you may feel very powerful because you can say things and send it out to many people it doesn’t mean that you should or that it’s appropriate to do so!

The ignoramus who sent me this email would never have the stones to talk about this person “personally” to all the people (including strangers) that he emailed, but he could do it behind the relative safety of the internet. Unfortunately, this is one of the weaknesses of the powerful medium of the internet. If this individual behaved like this at an “in-person” meeting, he’d likely be thrown out! But online, he thinks he can get away with it. People like this become so disconnected with reality that they get this false sense of power (not to mention self-importance).

So, what do you say to someone who sends you such a totally inappropriate email? I told him that “I didn’t know the woman he was talking about but that his email told me a lot about him and that I did NOT want to get this type of slanderous communication again.” He surprised me with his response. He said that he didn’t know who I was and “he didn’t want to talk to nobodies” like me! At first I thought, “nobody, I don’t think I’m a nobody.” Then I thought, hmmm, maybe it’s a good thing to be a “nobody” to a nutcase!

Have you had experiences like this? If so, tell me about it. What did you say when you got an email like this? I want to hear your feedback.

Teach Your Employees To Network!

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately to promote my new book Masters of Sales (www.MastersBooks.Com), and on my way to a book tour date I sat next to a young man in an airport who struck up a conversation with me.  We got to talking about what each other did for a living and after explaining what I do, I found out that he worked for a small, family owned grocery business.  I commented that it was probably tough to be the “little guyâ€? in competition with the larger chain grocery stores and that his employer must be doing something right to still be in business. 

Being in the business of networking for over 20 years, it’s a no-brainer to me that my comments and inquiries about the young man’s employer were a prime opportunity for him to explain what made his company special and to possibly make a valuable networking connection that could bring in business and possibly mean a promotion for him.  But instead of taking advantage of the open door I was extending to him with my curiosity, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Yeah, we’ve had the same customers for years, so I guess we’re just lucky that they’re so loyal.â€?

That conversation reminded me how critically important it is to teach your employees to network!  Many business people simply don’t do this one simple thing which could dramatically boost their networking efforts.  It doesn’t matter how much you may know about networking, or how well you network to promote your business, you never know what you could be missing out on if your employees were trained to network for you.

The bottom line is that until you teach someone how to do something effectively, expecting them to do it well – or even at all – is unrealistic.

As you might imagine, it’s far better to engage your entire staff in your word-of-mouth marketing campaign-not only at startup, but also throughout the life of your business. When you show employees how to network efficiently, they are much more apt to make efforts to network; and you will have a greater chance of gaining more business.

Try holding focus groups where you role-play ways to ask for referrals from other customers, friends and family.  Bring in local networking experts for in-house trainings.  Better yet, send your staff to a networking class, like the one’s conducted by the Referral Institute.   If you belong to a weekly networking group, bring your staff to those meetings one at a time so each member can see firsthand what networking can produce.  This also helps your networking partners feel that they know your business better, since they’ve been able to meet the people in your company.  

Networking is a group activity; so, make sure to get your whole team on board with the process.  If you’ve done anything to get your employees involved in networking your business, I’d love to hear about it.

Wild Fire Fund

The wild fires ravaging Southern California bring back some horrific memories.  Just a few years ago, a 40 foot wall of flames came past my home near the foothills in Claremont (shown below).   In the photo, you can see me hosing my head down to douse the hot embers falling from the fire.  I was attempting to keep the wood beams in my backyard from catching fire as the flames swept through the open space behind my home.  More than two dozen homes burned down in my community.  Luckily, ours was not one of them.

Fire

I can relate to the feelings that many residents near these fires are experiencing.  To help the victims of the current fires in Southern California, the BNI-Misner Foundation is creating a fund to support the Red Cross efforts with helping victims of the fire.   The BNI-Misner Foundation is doing a matching fund of up to $10,000.  If you would like to join BNI in contributing to the survivors of this tragedy, please go to this URL where you can make a credit card contribution to BNI’s matching Wild Fire Fund:   

  1. Go to http://www.calfund.org/8/giving_bnimisner.php
  2. Click on the link to “make a secure contribution now” towards the bottom.
  3. Fill out the required information, and follow the prompts.

Or, checks can be sent to the BNI-Misner Charitable Foundation at 545 College Commerce Way, Upland, CA 91786.  Make sure to state that the contribution is for the matching “Wild Fire Fund”.

New Orleans – After Katrina

I spent the last few days in New Orleans for a BNI event hosting the 210 winners (and guests) of the 2007 USA Member Extravaganza for the organization.

There are two things I want to share about my visit to the area.  The first, is my impression of the business people.  It’s great to see business “start” to come back in the city.  One of the things that struck me was how so many businesses THANKED us for visiting the city and helping in some small way to bring back the economy.  It was truly dramatic.  Every time my wife and I purchased something, the stores went out of their way to thank us for our business.  When we told them were with a group of 210 people, they were extremely thankful.  It felt great to help the city and I invite you to visit New Orleans.  They definitely need more business and they appreciate it more than any group of people I’ve seen in recent years.

The second thing I want to share relates to the many stories I heard about courage and giving.  Prior to the event I mentioned above, I had an opportunity to speak to about 150 BNI and Jefferson Chamber of Commerce members in the greater New Orleans area .  I heard many stories about the hurricane and its aftermath.  One that really jumped out at me was a BNI member by the name of Dr. Morris Panter.

Dr. Panter (seen here with me at the event) told me that immediately after the hurricane, he had no practice!  His office was damaged with holes in the roof but it was still partly usable.  So, he spray painted a plywood board that said “Relief Workers Adjusted for Free.”  He told me that over the next several months he adjusted 900 relief workers helping to clean up from the disaster!

I think Dr. Panter’s story is another one of the many examples of courage and giving that we have seen come out of this horrific event.  In the face of the temporary loss of all his business, he took the time to “give” to the people helping his city.

It was an honor to speak to people throughout the greater New Orleans area and I wish them continued success in building the city’s economy back up.

"Act as if. . ." Party

I’m spending a couple days at Jack Canfield’s home in Southern California participating in a strategic planning session for an organization I belong to called the Transformational Leadership Council (an organization he founded about 4 years ago for trainers and thought leaders).

Kathryn Lodal, one of my Executive Directors for BNI requested that I ask Jack a great question that I thought would make a good topic to discuss in my blog today. In Jack’s latest book, “Success Principle’s,” one of the things he recommends that people do is to create an event where they “act as if” they were the person they aspired to be 5 years from now! Kathryn wanted to know how to best do that. So, I asked Jack for some suggestions and I loved his response.

Jack suggests that people put on an “Act as if” event where everyone comes dressed as the person they want to be five years from now. He said the key to making this work is using props and video recording the event. Make sure that you create a vision for where you would like to be and to record that vision so that you can more effectively attract that in to your life. Dress like the person you want to be, talk like the person you want to be, create a story around the person that you want to be, and make sure to record that vision during the event.

I’d love to hear from anyone that has done this and how the event worked out. I know that Kathryn and her BNI members in San Diego will be doing it a few months from now and and I can’t wait to see the video!

A Referral You’ll Feel Good About

I watched an amazing movie today.  It was not a blockbuster but it was an incredible story.  It was Freedom Writers starring Hilary Swank as a high school teacher in a difficult school.  The movie is based on a true story.   One of the secondary points of the movie really stood out to me.   The teacher that Swank played had a difficult time getting books from the school for her students.

I ran into a similar situation a couple years ago when the BNI-Misner Foundation had a request from a teacher that said the school’s library was only open one day a week and there were very limited books available to her students.  She said that she couldn’t teach students math, science, english, or history if they couldn’t read.   That request motivated us to focus more on providing mini-grants for teachers trying to obtain books for their students.  Watching Freedom Writers reinforced our interest in providing mini-grants directly to teachers in schools who need books.

So, why am I mentioning this???  “A referral you’ll feel good about” is any teacher you know who is looking for books for their class.  We’d like to consider them for a mini-grant ($500-$1,000 max).  If you know someone like this, have them send an email to bethmisner@bni.com who is the administrator for the BNI-Misner Foundation.  We’d  like to see if we can help.

Thanks!

The “Butterfly Effect of Networking"

I am writing to you today from Necker Island in the Caribbean where I am meeting with about 20 business leaders including Sir Richard Branson the founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways and owner of the Island.

My journey to this island is a dramatic example of the “Butterfly Effect of Networking.”  The “Butterfly Effect” is the theory that a small action in one place may have a ripple effect that creates a dramatic action in another place. It is like a pebble in a pond creating ripples on the surface.

For networking, it is about how a seemingly minor connection or conversation with one person may, after many ripples across the network, end in a dramatic connection later in the process.  This week, I am living that concept to its fullest.

It started several years ago when I received a phone call from a woman I did not know but who has since become a good friend.  Her name is Kim George.  Kim asked me if I would be willing to help with the creation of an online networking and social capital community.  It took some work to put this together, but at the time I had no idea what type of ripple effect this request would have on my life.  I did it because it fit the values and direction that I wanted to take my company in.  With that, the ripple began.

This relationship turned into a strategic alliance, which turned into a speaking engagement, which allowed me to meet Jack Canfield (co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul), which led to an invitation from Jack to participate in an international organization called the Transformational Leadership Council, which led to meeting a woman by the name of Nancy Salzman, owner of NXIVM Training. Getting to know Nancy led to an invitation for my wife and I to spend five days on the breathtakingly beautiful Necker Island where we have been meeting with financial wizards of business, movie producers,and successful business leaders such as Sir Richard Branson (OK, I won’t hold back this week is a networker’s dream).

The ripples that take place in the networking process may not be clear when the pebble drops into the water and the ripple begins. What is certain is that there is a ripple. If you follow that ripple and make the most of the contacts that you meet during each stage of that journey, it can lead you to making connections and creating relationships that may very well surprise you when you look back to where the journey first started.

Look for more later about the journey of this particular ripple.

Welcome One and All

Welcome to the “Networking Now” Blog here at Entrepreneur.com.  My name is Ivan Misner and I am the Founder & Chairman of BNI – the world’s largest business networking organization and the Senior Partner for the Referral Institute – the world’s leading referral training organization.

I am looking forward to creating an environment where we can talk about topics related to relationship networking, referral marketing, and maybe a few other themes from time to time in a way that helps you, as an Entrepreneur, to improve and develop your networking and marketing skills to grow your business.

Make sure to check back in on a regular basis.  I promise you that we will cover some interesting topics as I travel the world networking with some leading experts on business and marketing.

All the best.

Dr. Ivan Misner
September 17, 2007

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