Ivan Misner, Author at Dr. Ivan Misner® - Page 3 of 115
Intentional About Diversity

Being Intentional About Diversity

Being Intentional About Diversity was written with my co-author of Networking Like a ProBrian Hilliard.

With everything going on in the world today, we thought it would be a good time to take a step back and talk about diversity, and more specifically, about diversifying your business network. Developing a truly diverse network is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. Because let’s be honest, different people bring different things to the table in terms of who they know and how they might be able to refer or otherwise assist your business.

As we said in our book, Networking Like a Pro, networks are by nature, clumpy. Human beings have a tendency to congregate and surround ourselves with people who are similar to us. . . whether by race, gender, religion, or professional status. Unfortunately, this approach to networking has unintended consequence – namely, that we tend to form clusters. This is why it is so incredibly important to be intentional about the way we develop our personal network. A diverse personal network enables you to increase the possibility of including connectors to your network. These are people who cross over in some way between two or more groups of people. The best way to increase the number of possible connections in your network is to intentionally develop a diverse, heterogeneous network that has connections to other clusters of people.

If you go with the premise that relationships are the currency of today’s modern business person, then it stands to reason that having an ethnically diverse business network – comprised of people who look different than you – actually is the next logical step when it comes to building a thriving referral-based business.

But for a lot of people, especially those in the majority, the question becomes how.

In other words, how as a white businessman (or woman), can I diversify my network and get to know more business people in the African American, Asian or Latino communities?

That’s a great question and one that, at first glance, can seem daunting to say the least.

But as with most seemingly complicated questions, the answer is quite simple: Be more intentional about it.

In other words, as a member of any ethnic group, the tendency is to spend time around more people like yourself. So whatever ethnicity I am, I’m more likely to have friends and business contacts of that ethnicity. And while that’s understandable, we feel that entrepreneurs who diversify their networks – based on ethnicity, gender and a host of other factors – are actually better positioned to be more successful.

As a matter of fact, McKinsey & Company did a report in 2015 (“Diversity Matters”) which determined that companies having a high racial and ethnic diversity are actually 35% more likely to perform above their industry’s national median return.

So the question becomes what can we do to branch out and overcome the gravitational pull we all feel towards spending time around people who look like us? How can we, instead, become more intentional in our actions when it comes to actually meeting and engaging others in different communities?

Another great question…and we have some thoughts.

1. Recognize that diversity is a process, not a program. In other words, diversifying your network has to be something you want to do and commit to doing on a daily basis. It needs to become part of your core beliefs that you’re going to be intentional about meeting and engaging people who don’t look like you. Anything less than that is almost guaranteed to eventually fail.

2. Look at your phone and business contacts on social media. Do they all “look” the same in terms of ethnicity, age, education and gender? If so, then keep reading because you might have some work to do. As we said above, diversity is a process, not just a program. This has to be an ongoing process.

3. Consider volunteering for certain organizations which put you into contact with people who are different than you. This could be as simple as volunteering as a coach for a local sports team, scheduling some time to visit an inner city school during “career day,” or sitting on a local community service board. Just take it upon yourself to broaden the scope of contacts you have with various ethnicities.

4. Make it a point to talk to people who don’t look like you. This is one that I (Brian) personally started doing 2 years ago, and I love it! So as a black man in his 40’s who grew up in the North but lives in the South, I take it upon myself to talk to ANY white person who may or may not have the same education as me, or who may or may not be in the same physical shape as me, or who may or may not be originally from the North like me. And it’s not a question of patronizing people or anything like that…I just make it a point while passing them at the grocery store, walking to my car in the parking lot, picking up some Chinese food to say “Hey, how’s it going?” And depending on the situation, sometimes that leads to more conversation, sometimes it doesn’t. But it gets everyone out of their comfort zone for a bit engaging new folks.

5. Invite different people of different ethnicities to your networking group. If you’re in a local Chamber of Commerce or a BNI Chapter, this is a perfect opportunity for you to engage others and invite them to your group. For example, maybe you’re out networking and you see a person of color and you decide to implement Point #4 from above. Ok, then during that conversation, you let them know about your group and see if they’d like to attend. And that’s it. Super easy to do, and it is very intentional.

6. Make this a top down initiative wherever you are in the organization. For those of you who have employees in your business, this point is crucial. If you want to have diversity in your organization and be more successful as a business because of it, then you absolutely must take the lead and make diversity a “thing.” Which means it is something that people value, something that people do, and something that you, as the leader, set as an example on a regular basis for them to emulate.

7. Hard-code diversity into the fabric of your business. Similar to the previous leadership point, if you’re going to be serious about diversity in your business, we recommend you seriously consider making it one of the core values of your company. Put it in your public material, address it when talking to your team/employees, and make it a part of the DNA of the organizational culture so people are crystal clear how you feel about it and how it plays out in your company.

It is important to note that there is a subtle but crucial difference between inclusivity and diversity. You may have an organization where the members feel like it is very inclusive, but when you look at it from the outside, does it truly look diverse? If not, you need to be more intentional about being inclusive to create diversity. Diversity is a fact; inclusiveness is a choice. Intentionally acting in an inclusive manner is what creates diversity.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not there yet…maybe you haven’t done these things as well as you could have. But today is the day to start. It’s never too late to do the right thing.

Restart the World

Join Us To Restart the World

Business leaders from around the globe will collectively restart the world this September. During this 3-day event powered by BNI®, we will be sharing ideas that entrepreneurs can embrace to effectively restart and ramp up their businesses.

Restart the World

I will be kicking off a global movement, Restart the World” LIVE on September 15th. BNI will unite organizations and business leaders worldwide to help our local, national, and global businesses big and small get back on the path to growth. During each of the three one-hour events, Graham Weihmiller (BNI Chairman and CEO) and I will announce BNI’s plans to help restart the world.

I will be hosting an engaging panel discussion with select business leaders from across the globe about their key insights for growth. Plus, we will be sharing tips on establishing the right mindset right now to restart, reopen, reboot, and re-launch local businesses worldwide, powered by BNI.  

Scheduled to appear on the panel are Mac Srinivasan (BNI Global Markets President), Lorena Medina (Director Nacional de BNI en México), and Bijay Shah (BNI National Director: United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Qatar, Tanzania, and Uganda). Additional panelists may be announced at a later time.

We are expecting tens of thousands of BNI Members, alumni, collaborators, and colleagues to attend these sessions. Furthermore, “Restart the World” is a global initiative that will continue well past this event. We hope that the tools and tips that you learn from us will help your business navigate these challenging times. Ultimately, we can build our relationships together that will lead us all to strengthened and empowered networks.

Reshare the Video

You can help promote our event by sharing this video on your social media pages. https://youtu.be/XtQ4zwAZsoQ

Review the Schedule

Following the success of BNI’s Growing Forward Together World Tour last month, this one-hour event will again be live-streamed over three days in multiple regions worldwide. The chart below lists the scheduled broadcast time for your country so that you can join us LIVE.

Global Broadcast Time Schedule

Remember the Registration

Registration is now open. Join us as we continue to Restart the World with this global initiative. Visit restarttheworld.live to register or click below.

Entrepreneurs have two problems this year. First, COVID-19, and now, a recession. What I know to be true is that if you focus on the problems, you will become an expert on the problems. However, when you focus on the steps to restart the world, you can get through both struggles.

Sales Force

Networking is About Training a Sales Force, Not Closing a Sale

Networking groups can definitely help businesses generate referrals.  However, I have talked to many people who say to me that despite the fact that they are giving business FOR other members of their networking group, they are not getting business FROM other members of their group. For those of you who want to get more business from the networking groups you belong to, keep this in mind: When attending referral-related networking groups remember that your efforts should be focused more on training a sales force than on trying to “close a sale”.

In other words, if you want to get business FROM the fellow members of your networking group, it is key that you EDUCATE these people about some of the specifics of your business and what to look for in order to refer you effectively. If you were training a sales force what would you say in this training process?  How would you describe your product or service to your salespeople that would enable them to fully understand the benefits of what you have to offer?  This is what you should be doing at a networking meeting.

The only way people can pass referrals to you is by getting to know about your business AND about you. No one expects a referral group’s member to be an actual salesperson for all the other members; but, if you want referrals, the other members do need to be trained.  Thus, the way your introductions are done can substantially impact your results in generating referrals FROM other networking group members. I have personally seen people participate in referral groups who were in businesses so unusual that I didn’t think it was possible for them to do well; however, what I didn’t take into account was their personal commitment, attitude, and ability to teach people “how” to refer them.

Three key points to consider for educating people in your networking groups to be your sales force:

1) Do not generalize when asking for referrals: I have heard hundreds of thousands of introductions at business networking events in my 35 years of running a business referral organization. When talking about the type of referrals they want, many people use the words “anyone,” “someone,” or “everyone.”  I don’t recommend it. Why?  Because it is too general. If you say you can help “anyone” who needs your service, it is so generic that it doesn’t stick in anybody’s brain. Remember, specific is terrific.

2) Bring support material with you when you are at your networking meetings: If you have something visual for members to view or take with them, you increase your chances of staying in their minds long after the day’s meeting. A flier about a product sale or a newsletter from your company is a good item to share.  You might also bring samples of a product that you carry in your store or place of business.

3) Break your business down into Lowest Common Denominators (LCD’s) when introducing yourself: We all thought we would be done with algebra when we graduated, didn’t we? Here is an example of how one discipline can be applied to another.  In networking, Lowest Common Denominators apply to business introductions when you focus each week on only one aspect of your business at your networking meetings.  In other words, you break your business down into very small pieces.  You may be tempted to use the laundry list approach:  listing all the areas of focus that your business covers.  I would submit to you that your fellow networkers will learn more about you a week to week if you explain a single aspect of your business at each meeting.

I once saw the owner of a florist shop stand to give his introduction, holding a single red rose, wrapped in cellophane with a very thin stem.  He described the type of rose it was and how long it would bloom.  He then told his members he had just purchased it at the grocery store on his way to the meeting that morning.  After that, he reached under the table and pulled out another long-stemmed red rose, fully three times larger, with a huge redbud and a much thicker, green stem.  He proceeded to describe this rose, emphasizing that it would stay fresh and actually fully bloom and open up, lasting twice as long.   He held both by the bottom tip of the stems and waved them back and forth showing how thin the grocery store stem was as it swayed from side to side with each movement of his hand and how sturdy his rose was which didn’t budge at all.  With that, he announced that there was only a 3 cents difference in price between the two roses… his rose cost less!

This is a classic example of how to use an LCD when educating people about your business while at networking events.  The floral shop owner did not use general examples, he brought something to show, and he described it (and only it) in detail. If you want to get referrals from your networking efforts – remember to train your sales force using the three techniques above and you will see a noticeable difference in your results. 

Nervous Networker

Overcoming the Nervous Networker Condition

Ultimately, the goal of networking is building relationships with other people at an emotional level to help build a business. It involves meeting and interacting with people you can know and trust. However, the nervous networker is anxious about reaching out to potential contacts and prospects. Feeling comfortable introducing yourself to total strangers is one of the biggest obstacles to successful networking. If you’re a nervous networker you’re not alone. Many people feel a bit daunted about going to a networking event or meeting lots of strangers. The good news is that there are three things you can do which will reduce your anxiety.

Acting Like a Host

In her book, Skills for Success, Dr. Adele Scheele tells about a cocktail party where she met someone hesitant to introduce himself to total strangers. Dr. Scheele suggested that he “consider a different scenario for the evening. That is, consider himself the party’s host instead of its guest.” She asked him if he were the host, wouldn’t he introduce himself to people he didn’t know and then introduce them to each other? Wouldn’t he watch for lulls in conversations, or bring new people over to an already-formed small group?

Scheele’s new acquaintance acknowledged the obvious difference between the active role of the host and the passive role of the guest. Scheele concluded that “there was nothing to stop this man from playing the role of the host even though he wasn’t the actual host.”

Don’t Act, Be

Now I know that sounds easy… but, when it comes right down to it, actually acting like the host isn’t so simple for many people. Not all individuals are good at “acting” like something they are not. Therefore, I have one important thing to add to this advice: don’t “ACT” like the host, “BE” the host.

Most of the business organizations and groups that you go to have a position that is responsible for meeting visitors. I know it sounds crazy telling someone who is uncomfortable meeting new people at a networking event to be the host. At first, it must sound a little like telling a boxer to “lean into a punch!” however, there is a big difference and it works.

Most people’s fears relating to meeting new people at networking events come from not having a proper context to introduce themselves to others. When you are the host, you don’t feel uncomfortable introducing yourself to someone you don’t know who’s at your party. So the key, in feeling comfortable, is to establish the proper context.

Become a Gate Keeper

To establish the proper context, I recommend that you volunteer to be an Ambassador, or Visitor Host, at the networking groups you belong to. An Ambassador or Visitor Host is someone who greets all the visitors and introduces them to others. Over time, this type of position will allow you to meet many people, put them together with others, and become an accomplished “gatekeeper.” Helping others connect, meet, and get want they need – will unquestionably help you build your business. Furthermore, it will do it in a way that helps others.

By using this technique, you’ll start to develop excellent networking skills and get great exposure to many business professionals in a short time.

A distinguishing characteristic of self-made millionaires is that they network everywhere. Most importantly, they do it all the time – at business conferences, at the health club, on the golf course, or with the person sitting next to them on a plane. This fact alone should motivate you to place yourself in situations where you can meet new people and do so in a way that you feel comfortable.

It’s not called net-sit, or net-eat, it’s called net-work. If you want to become a better networker, try this technique out. You will be nervous, and the act of networking might feel alien, but pushing yourself can sometimes lead to great things. You will be pleased with the results.

The PRICE System

The PRICE System For Your Referrals

The PRICE system is a commonly known management tool for tracking performance in a business context.  People who want to track, analyze, and manage their performance or the performance of others can use this system as a tool for accomplishing that. Many members of BNI have asked me about tracking the referrals they receive.  The PRICE system can be an excellent tool for you to manage and assess your referrals in BNI.  Furthermore, the system can be applied to individual members or the progress of an entire chapter, whichever you prefer.

The PRICE System is an acronym for

Pinpoint, Record, Involve, Coach, and Evaluate.

Pinpoint – involves determining the general theme(s) of the goals and objectives that you or your chapter may have.  It may be as simple as the total referrals you wish to receive.  It can, however, be more specific by breaking it down into inside or outside referrals (referrals from members or from people that members refer).  You can even decide to track referrals by the actual value of the referral.

Record – involves taking your goals and putting them in measurable and observable terms.  Measurable terms include things such as quantity, quality, or time frame.  This part of the process involves tracking your goals in writing.  It requires that you take the actual quantity or value of the goals you have established over a time period that you determine (we recommend one year) and record them as they occur.

Involve – requires clear communication and providing feedback to the other members of your chapter.  Share your PRICE goals or develop chapter PRICE goals that can be distributed and discussed with the chapter.  Discuss progress over time and make sure to review and discuss your PRICE goals regularly.

Coach – is one of the most important parts of a successful PRICE system.  Share your PRICE goals with your BNI chapter members.  Ask for their feedback.  Use your BNI chapter’s “members only group page” on Facebook to get feedback on your program. Ask the Leadership Team of your chapter for assistance, seek out a mentor from your chapter to help you (or volunteer to mentor someone else).

Evaluate – involves summarizing the data after a year to take a look at your progress.  Make sure to recognize your successes and determine future strategies to improve performance.

In business, you achieve what you measure. The Networking Scorecard™ App provides you with a mobile solution to measuring your networking efforts. The best management tool in the world is the one that is used regularly.  There is no magic to setting and tracking performance.  It is accomplished with simple but specific methods that are used consistently.  Success is the sum of small efforts that are repeated day in and day out.  Tracking your success is done the same way.

The Law of Attraction

The Law of Attraction

The Law of Attraction has been used for thousands of years by some very successful people. Jack Canfield, the originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series and a good friend of mine, is one of them. He wrote an excellent book called, “Jack Canfield’s Key to Living the Law of Attraction”. I believe that it is important to maintain “positive thinking” and to attract other positive people during these days of negativity while quarantined in this great pause. I even included this years ago within the official “Code of Ethics” for BNI. Therefore, all BNI members pledge to “have a positive and supportive attitude”.

Our Beliefs form an Attraction with Others

We are limited only by our beliefs. The most successful people I see in life are those who move past limiting beliefs and move toward meaningful beliefs. Our beliefs can be very powerful. Therefore, our beliefs that are most meaningful to us are also the most powerful. This power is magnetic and forms an attraction with others.

The Law of Attraction is the belief that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into a person’s life. This belief is based on the idea that people and their thoughts are made from pure energy, and that a process of like energy attracting like energy exists through which a person can improve their health, wealth, and personal relationships.

Hope is more powerful than fear. It is that little voice inside, whispering to you about what “can be” when everyone around you is screaming about “what can’t be.” During these days of negativity, while quarantined in this great pause,  you need to maintain your positivity with hope. Hope plus a plan, plus action, will lead you successfully through these times. We are part of something bigger than ourselves. We can use the power of hope to restart the world with our actions.

Don’t Just Dream, Take an Attraction Action

According to Marcia Wieder, CEO and Founder of Dream University, in business, dreaming is a serious business; it’s the driving force for transformation and without vision, many companies fail. Therefore, we must all “Dream Big”. However, a dream without a plan is just a fantasy. It is your thoughts about believing in your dream which will lead to achieving your dreams. The Law of Attraction is powerful. However, the word “action” is part of the word “attraction”.  When you practice the Law Attraction, it is important to take action to achieve your dreams. You cannot make improvements through thought alone. Transform your own life, both personally and professionally, by taking action and contribute to making the world a better place.

I do not know what our future holds, but I do know that we can definitely influence it with positive thinking and forming an attraction with others that also have a positive and supportive attitude.

favorite places

Thoughts About My Favorite Places Take Flight Like Birds

Recently, Beth and I were sitting on our balcony at our Beach Condo in Galveston, Texas talking about where our favorite places are on the planet. Beth pulled out her phone and thought people may like to know where my favorite places are to go in the world. This is a question people do ask us because we travel a lot. On one airline alone, I have flown over 2.3 million miles.

Beth videotaped me answering the question. “Where is my favorite place in the world?”  Below is the video of the conversation I had with Beth.  I think people might find it interesting. Consider this as part of my G.A.I.N.S. exchange as I share my “interests” with you.

The things you enjoy doing and the places you enjoy going can help you connect with others because people are more willing to spend time with those who share their interests. Knowing other people’s interests makes it easier for you to help them in some way. Therefore, let them know your interests as well. If you and your contact share many of the same interests, it will strengthen your relationship. 

Where are my favorite places in the world?

You can watch the video above to learn where my ultimate favorite place in the world is located. You might be surprised by my answer. Here are a few other favorite places on our list:

  • Galveston: Relaxing at our beach condo. Now and then, the local birds take flight, rise up, and soar above our heads.
  • India: We have a lot of members in India and I enjoy visiting with them.
  • Necker Island: We enjoy spending time with Richard Branson on his private island.
  • Paris: We enjoyed the two months we spent in France for our 25th wedding anniversary.
  • South Africa: We did an amazing safari together at Camp Jabulani.
  • Sydney Australia: Beth loves Sydney. It is one of her favorite places, but not her number one place. Can you guess where Beth’s ultimate favorite place is? Listen to the video for her answer.
  • The Great Barrier Reef: We explored it from a small ship.

COVID-19 has changed our travel life. We look forward to the days when we can travel the world again. Visiting these favorite places we mentioned, and also exploring new places we have never been to before. By sharing this video, we know we will receive many invitations to go visit and revisit many places all across the world.

Therefore, I suggest that you add this question about your favorite places when discussing your “interests” as part of your G.A.I.N.S. exchange. Download a copy of the GAINS exchange profile form. People will get to know you better when you share your favorite places in the world during your one-to-one meetings. Please share below in the comments your favorite places in the world too.

recession

I Refuse to Participate in the Recession

Since starting BNI in 1985, I have navigated my company through three recessions. Now,  we have entered our fourth recession due to COVID-19. Along the way, I have learned that your mindset has a lot to do with how one navigates a tough recession economy successfully.

The 1990 Recession

The importance of having a positive mindset became clear to me during the recession of the early ’90s. I was attending a large networking event. As I walked around the room, I discovered that almost everyone was completely fixated on how horrible things were. It was incredibly depressing. I found myself meandering until I saw someone standing in a corner observing all the distraught business people in attendance. I walked up to him, introduced myself, and asked him what he did.  He told me he was in real estate. I prepared myself for the onslaught of horror stories, but instead, he said that things were going well for him.

Naturally, I was surprised and replied, “You said you were in real estate, right?

“Yes,” he said.

I asked, “The real estate market has dropped significantly here, hasn’t it?”

“Yes,” he said with a slight grin.

“And you’re having a good year?”

“I’m having my best year ever!”

“Your best year!” I said in amazement. After thinking for a moment, I asked him, “Is this your first year in real estate?

“No,” he replied with a laugh. “I’ve been in real estate for almost 10 years.”

I asked him how he could be doing so well, given the condition of the economy. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a big button that reads:

I Absolutely Refuse to Participate in the Recession!

“That’s it? You have a button that says, ‘I absolutely refuse to participate in the recession,’ so your business is booming?” I exclaimed.

“Well, it’s not just the button; it’s the attitude that goes along with it, he told me. You see, he went on to explain, “during difficult times, there are almost always opportunities that exist, and if you want to succeed, you have to focus on those opportunities.”

“OK,” I said. “School me a little on this. What kind of opportunities can there be right now when the real estate market has taken a nosedive?”

“Two big ones,” he replied. “First, there are real estate investors who buy properties to rent and lease. I’m going to them and encouraging, ‘Don’t be one of those people who come to me a few years from now and say that you should have bought that property when I showed it to you. Let me show you a duplex that you can get a steal on today’.” He paused to take a sip of his water, and then continued, “Besides, there are still first-time home buyers in a down economy. I’m going to them right now and explaining that they couldn’t afford a house a year ago, but they can today. Now is the time to buy while the market is low.”

He was selling more real estate than ever while others in the room were obsessed with the recession economy and the drop in prices. And yet, he was making a killing. He wrapped up by telling me the button represented the attitude and the action that one must pursue when times are tough. He said he was at ease with the recession because many of the people in the room would be transitioning to another business while he became focused and they simply froze in fear.

The Great Recession (2008)

His is not an isolated story. I have seen this happen during all three of the past recessions I have experienced. Years later, I met someone who had left his employment, cashed out his retirement money, and decided to become an entrepreneur. He started his very own moving and storage business. Beginning with one truck, a storage facility, and an office, he opened his doors and was excited to start his journey. This was in early 2008. Just as he joined the ranks of entrepreneurship, the Great Recession came crashing down on him.

He was devastated.  All his hopes, dreams, and cash were about to evaporate. However, he had a similar attitude to my real estate friend. With a positive mindset, he increased his efforts and immersed himself in networking groups to build his word of mouth. At the same time, he integrated self-storage programs into his business to help people who consolidated homes during this time. This was one of the few growth areas during the recession.

The bottom line was that he also refused to participate in the recession.  He was focused on solutions while other people were frozen in fear.  He came out of that recession larger and stronger than he was when he and his company went into it.  You can find him today with many trucks and multiple locations around the country.

The COVID-19 Recession (2020)

Entrepreneurs have two problems this year. First, COVID-19, and now, a recession. What I know to be true is that if you focus on the problem, you will be an expert on the problem. Focus on the solutions that will get you through both struggles.

A powerful mindset begins with the belief that you can find solutions to the current situation. Belief is that little voice inside you whispering to you the things that “can be” while everyone around you is screaming about the things that “can’t be.” The right mindset, along with a plan of action, will lead you successfully through these turbulent times. I for one am going out today to make more buttons that say: “I Refuse to Participate in the Recession.” I invite you to do the same.

hunting

Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting

Over the years, I have observed that most business professionals go about networking the way our cave-dwelling ancestors went about hunting for food. If I could impart one piece of wisdom regarding networking and getting more referrals, it would be this: Networking is about farming for new contacts, not hunting them.

Premature Solicitation

Has a complete stranger ever solicited you for a referral or business? I call this “premature solicitation.” I have been its victim many times. Years ago, I was speaking at a networking event, and before my presentation, an unknown person approached me and said, “Hi, it is a real pleasure to meet you. I understand you know Richard Branson. I offer specialized marketing services and I am sure his Virgin enterprises could benefit from what I provide. Could you please introduce me to him so that I can show him how this would assist his companies?”

I replied with the following response: “Hi, I’m Ivan Misner. I am sorry. I do not think we have met before. What was your name again?” That surprised the man enough to make him realize his solicitation might have been a bit premature. I continued to explain to him. “I regularly refer people to my contacts, but only after I’ve established a strong, long-term relationship with the service provider”. He thanked me and moved on to his next victim.

Over the years, many people have shared with me their frustrations about strangers who pounce on them at networking meetings and ask for business. However, occasionally someone will share with me that they approve of using “premature solicitation”. Here is one example that I received:

Hunting Networkers

“I don’t happen to believe that you need a relationship with the person you are asking first. What you must have is a compelling story or product/service that would genuinely benefit the referral. The fact that you had not cultivated a relationship with the person has become irrelevant because, more importantly, you had been in a position to help [your contact] benefit from the introduction. If it’s of genuine benefit to the person being referred, I don’t see the problem. Who am I to deny my contacts something good?”

The relationship is “irrelevant”, according to this person. It does not matter if I actually know or trust someone. As long as the person has a worthy product, I should not “deny my contacts something good.”  I absolutely disagree, and I would ask anyone interested in business networking to keep the following in mind:

  • Networking is not about hunting.
  • Networking is about farming.
  • It’s about cultivating relationships.
  • Do not be guilty of premature solicitation.

Farming Networkers

This kind of networker is also meeting people. However, they build relationships first, instead of just adding names to a contact list. They are building referral sources to people that were referred to them by their strategic alliances. Proper networking is about taking the time to cultivate relationships. Use networking opportunities to first meet people, Then schedule additional times to connect and build trust with them. Do not ask someone for a business referral until you feel confident that the person knows and trusts you.

Networking is indeed like farming. Commit to mastering what it takes to efficiently and effectively harness the potential in your “relationship crops” and you will reap a bountiful harvest of mutually satisfying relationships and sustainable growth in your business.

Networking Group

Secrets of a Successful Networking Group

To help your networking group be successful, I have identified four important tips to consider when inviting visitors, selecting new members, and encouraging mentoring by your experienced members. Please note that in BNI® we call our networking groups “BNI Chapters”.

1) Invite Qualified Visitors to Your Networking Group

In any strong networking group, inviting qualified visitors is important. These groups become stronger because they tend to select new members who are more experienced in their profession. Seasoned professionals are more likely to have an already established network. Therefore, qualified visitors quickly become “qualified members” because they are more likely to pass qualified referrals to their fellow members using their own established network.  Furthermore, inexperienced people tend to pass leads as new members while they are building their network. There is a big difference between a “lead” and a “referral”.

2) Induct Experienced Members to Your Networking Group

When giving referrals to others, you want to ensure that you are recommending someone who is experienced at what they do. This is a trait that is even more important to your networking group than inducting someone just because they are well connected to the community. Do not gamble upon inducting new members who are inexperienced in their professions even if they have sizable networks. Therefore, I highly recommend that all of our BNI chapters’ Membership Committees take the time needed to fully vet and assess the level of experience of all applicants before inducting them into your BNI chapter or networking group.

In a 2002 survey of networking group members, 74 percent of networkers owned their own business. Furthermore, about one-third of business networkers were older than 50 while only 10 percent were younger than 30 years old. This would indicate that the average age of a business person in a networking group is older and more experienced than some would expect. Therefore, I firmly believe that business professionals with more experience are more likely to benefit from joining a networking group and using our referral-marketing strategy.

3) Strike a Balance Within Your Networking Group

A successful networking group should strive to seek a balance between “old pros” and “newbies.” Groups with only experienced older members can become “stuck in their ways” of networking. They also tend to stop inviting visitors to the chapter. They either claim that they have already invited everyone they know over the years or they often do not perceive visitors as being as important to the business as they once were. Meanwhile, a group made up mostly of inexperienced people can be too frenetic as they tend to pass more leads than actual qualified referrals.

4) Encourage Mentoring Between Experienced and New Members in Your Networking Group

In a successful networking group, I have observed effective mentoring between the experienced members and the newer members. Therefore, networking groups become stronger when the experienced members take newly inducted members under their wing in a mentoring relationship. The mentoring does not need to be a part of a formal training structure. I suggest just scheduling a few one-to-one’s between these two members. Take a little time to coach the new members on the finer points of word-of-mouth marketing. It is a real win-win.

As entrepreneurs become increasingly informed and educated about the tangible benefits of growing their business using a structured word-of-mouth program like BNI, many of them are seeking out a local BNIonlineTM chapter to visit virtually during an upcoming Zoom meeting. Therefore, I believe this is valuable information for entrepreneurs who are considering actively participating in a BNI chapter. If you are already a BNI member on your chapter’s current or future leadership team, incorporate these tips to grow your BNI chapter as a successful networking group.

Leads Referrals

Leads are not Referrals

So, what is the difference between referrals and leads? When I attended networking groups many years ago, they encouraged us to pass leads among us. However, in BNI, we believe in the power of referrals. These two words may sound alike as they both seek out new clients for the person you are referring to. However, there is more than semantics in the difference between leads and referrals. It is important to understand those differences so that we give and receive only qualified referrals, rather than leads.

Leads

A lead is a contact that may come from any number of sources. This contact is generally not expecting your call. If a Realtor gives an insurance agent their new home buyers’ contact list, they would be considered leads. Unfortunately, the prospects are not expecting a call from the insurance agent. Therefore, it is not much better than a cold-call. The agent will most likely receive a cold response from the phonecall.

Referrals

A referral is the opportunity to do business with someone who is in the market to buy your product or service and who has been told about you by a mutual friend or associate. In other words, they know who you are and what you do when you contact them. It is stronger than just a “lead”. The prospect has talked to your mutual acquaintance and is generally expecting the call. Hence, they are “referred”.

A common misconception about the difference between leads and referrals is that a referral is guaranteed business. This is not the case – as always, your business is your responsibility. Once a referral source has given you a contact name, it is up to you to do the rest. A qualified referral is an open door to put your best foot forward. A referral is better than a lead. You can use the name of the referral source to open the door.

Qualified Referrals

Are you passing qualified referrals to your networking partners based upon these three criteria?

  • When someone expresses that they may be interested in a product or service, have a conversation with them to determine if their needs fit the services offered by the person or organization you have in mind.
  • If the needs do fit, share with the potential referral that you know someone who may be a fit to help them and explain how you know your referral partner.
  • If the potential referral appears receptive to this connection, ask if you can share their contact information with the person who can provide the product or service.

Qualified referrals have been previously vetted by the person giving the referral. There is reason to believe the product or service is desired by the potential customer. The effectiveness of your referral network in providing you with quality referrals depends on the amount of work you do to develop the sources in your network.  A referral is almost always better than a lead. But don’t forget that there are many levels of a referral which depends on the development of the relationships that you nurture.

Different Levels of Referrals

The levels of referrals vary in quality according to how much involvement your referral source has invested in preparing the referral for you. The more time and effort your referral source puts into qualifying, educating, and encouraging the prospect before you become involved, the higher the quality the referral should be. Conversely, if your referral source only passes a prospect’s name to you, most of the work of developing that prospect into a customer falls on you, and the likelihood of turning that prospect into a customer diminishes significantly.

The best referrals you can give are the referrals where the person is expecting their call. Let them know that this person that you are referring to them is going to be giving them a call. Then when the potential client does call the business you are referring to, they will get a warm reception. That sure beats the heck out of cold calling any day of the week.

Right Questions

Master Networkers Ask the Right Questions

People like to talk about themselves. Furthermore, people refer business to people they like. Therefore when networking, remember the quote from the Greek philosopher, Epictetus (c. 50 – 135 AD). “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”. When networking, give yourself the time to truly listen to others when they are explaining what their business is all about. Everyone has a story, so find out what their story is.  By listening to them explain their story with genuine interest, you are making a real connection with them. With this initial introduction, you are building an atmosphere of trust and rapport right from the start. All it takes is asking the right questions when you are networking with someone for the first time.

Here are the five right questions to ask when networking that will keep the conversation rolling, set you apart from other networkers, and eventually lead to referrals:

1) What do you like best about what you do?

“What do you do?” is one of the first questions most people ask when networking. Therefore, when somebody begins their networking with the statement about “what they do” with me, I usually follow-up with, “That is interesting. What do you like best about what you do?” This leads to a deeper understanding while you learn about their business as the conversation flows naturally to the next question.

2) You mentioned that you were in [industry]. What got you started in that field?

This question allows them to talk about their personal history and goals. Furthermore, you learn what sparked their career interest and led them to where they are today. It also provides insight into their dedication to their profession and how proficient they are at it. Finally, as the relationship builds over time, you begin to see ways that you might be able to provide referrals to them for their products or services from people you know. However, you need to understand how and when they network their business.

3) Where else do you usually network?

I determined years ago through personal research that people who say they are successful with networking spend on average 6.3 hours per week networking with others. Furthermore, the people who say that networking doesn’t work for them reported spending on average less than two hours per week networking. So the people who are out there and they’re successful at this, they’re networking in other places, so asking this question is a great way to find out good places to network (in addition to OR along with BNI). Therefore, this question is a great way to learn about other networking events in your area that you may be missing. Finally, this question is a great opportunity to refer them to visit a local BNI chapter meeting (online or in-person) near them or to other networking groups that you are in. Now that you are building rapport with them, it is time to learn about some of the current problems they are experiencing in their business.

4) What are some of your biggest challenges?

This question strengthens the rapport you have with them. It is an opportunity to give them a referral when they share with you their current challenges. You can say, “Hey, I know somebody who might be able to help you with that”. Please remember that this is NOT an opportunity to sell to them. Do not attempt to close a personal deal before the two of you have established your credibility between each other. At this stage, it is only an opportunity to find ways to help them.

5) How can I help you?

Only ask this question if the conversation has gone well so far and you believe that this person is someone you would like to have in your business network too. If not, do not ask this question. However, being helpful is the best way to start building a solid relationship. This final question demonstrates that you have the other person’s interests in your mind and that you are willing to help them to grow their business. Therefore, it is an excellent way to build the credibility necessary for a valuable networking partnership.

Asking the right questions is really about earning trust and gaining rapport with a new contact and doing it as quickly as you can. Therefore, asking these five questions when networking can help you become a farmer and sow the seedlings for building strong relationships over time with others. If you need additional questions to ask, here are ten great questions to ask someone while networking. Furthermore, these would be great questions to pose during your next one-to-one meeting. Finally, I would suggest that you take the time to know your own personal answers to these questions. They are likely to be asked of you in return.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
1 2 3 4 5 115
   Follow Me

Get every new post delivered to your inbox