Keep the “FUN” in the Fundamentalsstring(38) "Keep the “FUN” in the Fundamentals"

I’ve observed that when it comes to business, having fun is something that is rarely talked about. It’s as if most people think fun and business are two completely unrelated and mutually exclusive things. Well, I don’t share that opinion at all. I think it’s important to have fun in business. In fact, I’ve learned that having fun is something businesses and networking groups alike need to do in order to achieve, and enjoy, lasting success.

I’m a systems and process guy. As the Founder of BNI®, I am a steadfast believer in the policies we have, which, by the way, were created by the BNI Board of Advisers, not me. I always say that policies are important because you need to have accountability in a corporation or an organization. However, you can’t be a dictator in the way you apply policy. Apply the rules more like Mandela than Attila. You can practice tough love, follow the fundamentals, and have fun.

Make Learning Fun

I believe in the experiential; I think it’s a great way to teach. When I taught management theory at a university, I had a lot of students that really disliked having to take a management theory class. But one of the things I did was to include a lot of experiential learning. For example, when I talked about specialization and the power of specialization, which can be quite a boring topic, I had an experiential exercise that showed the students how you can increase productivity and business through specialization. It was a fun game-type of exercise, and the students loved it! There was even one student who came to me at the end of the term and said, “I came to your class dreading this topic, but it was the best class I’ve ever had at the university!”

This is an example of keeping the fun in the fundamentals. The students learned the material through experiential learning moments that were engaging and interesting.

It’s okay to have a good time while maintaining accountability with the people in your group or on your team. If you don’t have fun, it’s easy to lose track of why you are there and why you do what you’re doing. Without fun, you can lose your excitement. When you lose your excitement for something, your passion for it is gone and it’s very hard to be successful at anything if you’re not passionate about it. That is why I believe it is so important to have a good time in whatever you’re doing–business, networking, or otherwise, by keeping the FUN in the fundamentals.

Do you have a story to share about a networking or business experience that is memorable because it was fun?

 

 

 

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Gratitudestring(9) "Gratitude"

When we live our lives with an attitude of gratitude, being thankful becomes a natural part of our daily routine. We realize how important it is to notice and acknowledge all the good things that we may take for granted.

Today is a good day to pause and acknowledge the people for whom we are grateful. Sharing our appreciation with our loved ones, our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and mentors makes a difference in ourselves and the people around us.

Living a life of gratitude is simple, yet not always easy. It is a simple concept, but not an easy concept to apply regularly in our lives. However, the more we practice and embrace our attitude of gratitude, the easier it becomes.

Thank you for being part of my journey. I am grateful for your connection and support.

Benefits of a Knowledge Networkstring(31) "Benefits of a Knowledge Network"

Professional associations, or knowledge networks, have been around longer than almost any other kind of group, from the medieval guilds to crafts associations to today’s professional groups and industry associations. The primary purpose is for the exchange of information and ideas, in both intra-industry and inter-industry.

Some of these types of groups limit membership to their own industry. However, quite a few groups that represent industries other than your own will allow you to join as an associate member of their organization. This can connect you with a concentrated target market, including many top-quality contacts. Indeed, many of your best current clients who are looking for their own competitive edge, may be members of industry associations. You can ask them which open-membership groups they belong to and explore the possibility of joining a few of them. This can give you an opportunity to meet prospects of the same quality as your best clients.

Groups In Your Own Industry

The other part of your knowledge network should be groups in your own industry. It is true that many of your competitors may also be members but consider the advantages. You will stay abreast of developments in your industry, find out what your competitors are up to, and study the competition’s presentations and brochures. You may also discover opportunities to collaborate with competitors whose specialties are different from yours or who need help on a big project.

Knowledge networks present great business networking opportunities. If you are looking to build more relationships and increase your referral marketing, I recommend that you investigate your local professional associations to determine which ones you might be able to join. Get involved with these organizations so that you can experience the benefits of a knowledge network.

Are you part of a knowledge network? I would love to hear your stories in the comment section.

A Positive Approach to Problem-Solving: Ask “Why So High?”string(62) "A Positive Approach to Problem-Solving: Ask “Why So High?”"

Years ago, I began using a technique in my business that I learned from my friend Dr. Mark McKergow, co-author of The Solutions Focus. It was a game-changer in dealing with the negative attitudes that tend to arise when a company is trying to problem-solve.

It is human nature to focus on the problems and not the solutions. In fact, many times people seem to fixate on the problems over and over and over again. They focus on them to the point that they become experts – on the problem. I’ve discovered that it is critical that we facilitate a “mindset – reset” with people like this in an organization to get them to focus on the solutions instead of the problems.

For example, when talking to a group of franchisees, employees, or even members of my organization, BNI®, I learned to ask a series of questions about the anxiety they had on any particular issue. For instance, I might ask a group, “What are some of the things that are a problem for you?” Sometimes, they might say something like, “Referrals. We’re not getting enough quality referrals.” Once I knew the problem, I was able to apply the process.

Know the Scale of the Problem

First, I would start by telling them that I think I can help them with the solution to this problem. I would then ask the person who posed the problem the following question: “On a scale from 1 – 10 with 1 meaning that you are getting no quality referrals at all and 10 meaning that you are getting more quality referrals than you ever imagined, what score would you give to the problem?”

Ironically, people to whom I’ve asked this type of question almost always say something close to a 4. So, in this example, let’s say the person says to me that the score they give the problem is a 4. My response to that statement is always… “Why so high?” When I say that, the person almost always looks totally perplexed and says something along the lines of, “no, I said a 4 – that’s low right?” I’ll respond by saying, “yes, I understand – you said a 4 out of 10. But my question is – why did you rank it a 4 instead of a 3 or a 2? Name just one thing that made you give it a score of a 4 instead of something lower.” They then offer one positive reason why they ranked the problem a 4 instead of a lower number.

Pinpoint What Is Working

Now, and this is important, I go to someone else – I don’t let the person with the complaint control the dialogue. I go to the rest of the room and say, “Someone else, give me just one factor for you, just one, that is working for you on this issue.” Then someone else inevitably gives me another. I repeat the procedure over and over again with different people. Each time I write down the answer (preferably on a flip chart where everyone can see the comments). Ironically, I almost always have someone who says something like this, “Actually, I wouldn’t give it a 4, I think it’s higher, I’d give it a 7 or an 8. Again, I say “great, why so high?” They then add their thought to the list which I write down on the flip chart.

Review Solution Options

Once I have a fair number of ideas (somewhere between eight and twelve), I slowly review the entire list with everyone stopping on the items that I think are particularly effective and explaining why I believe they are important. At this point I say something that surprises almost everyone. I say, “Actually, I don’t think you need my help. You already know what it takes to solve this problem. You have done a fantastic job of outlining almost everything that it takes to overcome your challenge and be successful with this list. If you do most of the things on this list that you gave me, you are going to create one of the most successful groups we have in the organization.” Then, I promise to meet with their leadership team after the meeting and help them triage the list to prioritize the topics in order of importance for the group.

All too often, when people are facing a problem, they tend to focus on the negatives. They continue to put their attention on what is not working instead of looking at what is working. The truth is, if we focus on the problems, we just find more problems. However, if we focus on the solutions, we find more solutions. Solutions are what the world needs. We have enough problems.

Networking Lessons from Naturestring(30) "Networking Lessons from Nature"

Making Quality Wine

Several years ago, on a visit to one of my favorite Napa Valley wineries, Chateau Montelena, I toured the agricultural side of the operation. The vintner shared the technique the winery uses to ensure the quality of the juice from the grapes year after year after year, regardless of the climate. This technique is known as “dry farming.”

As he explained the benefits of dry farming, I realized there was a business metaphor about how referral marketing works for businesses that understand and implement doing business by referral.

When vineyards are dry farmed, they are not irrigated during the dry season or rainy season. As a result, the roots of the vines must grow deep to get to the year-round underground supply of water, no matter the climate. This reminded me of how we teach businesspeople to develop deep-water relationships with their referral partners so that they can support growth no matter the climate–the economic climate.

Doing business by referral truly is not about getting rich quick. It is about farming rather than hunting. We want to be able to produce a bumper crop of referrals year after year after year regardless of the climate.

The stability of the juice’s quality is the gift of dry farming. Just like the dependability of Chateau Montelena’s wine, deep relationships ensure a dependability in our own business stability that is unavailable to the average businessperson.

Giant Redwood Trees

There is another metaphor from nature that illustrates the strength of doing business by referral–the story of the giant redwood trees in Northern California.

The giant redwoods average a height of 85 meters or 250 feet. It seems that with such an incredible height they would also have a very deep root system. However, they do not. They actually have a fairly shallow root system, much like California eucalyptus trees, which tend to blow over easily in heavy winds. And yet, the giant redwoods do not blow over easily – they stand tall.

You see, the giant redwoods also use an amazing technique to remain upright when those around them fall. They intertwine their roots with the roots of their neighbor, thereby supporting one another when the winds come. When one tree is under the direct pressure of the wind, the others help to hold it in place, not allowing it to succumb to the wind’s destructive forces.

Business networking and relationship marketing put you in a similar position as those giant redwoods. When you learn the intricacies of doing business by referral, you begin to metaphorically intertwine your roots with the roots of those with whom you are networking. When the economic climate pressures one member, the others offer support to help hold them in place!

That’s why networking and relationship marketing are so important, especially during economic challenges. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, it’s not powerful. I think these two metaphors really show how you can have your roots go deep and strong through the dry farming concept, and at the same time be interconnected with other businesspeople like the redwoods, both of which provide stability and support while helping one another. These networking lessons from nature show us that building deep relationships is one of the most important components for business success.

 

 

 

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Enrolled, Not Soldstring(18) "Enrolled, Not Sold"

I know many people don’t like being “sold to.” And many businesspeople really dislike the feeling of having to “sell” others on their products or services. They may have a great product, a great idea, a great service, and yet they have a hard time communicating that to the prospective client or customer. My friend, Conscious Communication Coach & Speaker, Scott deMoulin, says we should think of it as enrolled not sold, because our goal is not to sell someone the facts, features, and benefits about what we do. We want to enroll them for their needs and wants with our services and products as their solution.

Often people will engage in a version of premature solicitation when they try and push the sale before they have built a relationship. We must remember that the foundation of the relationship is trust. Stephen, M.R. Covey, author of “The Speed of Trust,” said that when trust exists, the speed of business goes much faster, and the cost of business is reduced dramatically. And the opposite is true; when trust isn’t there, it’s more expensive to advertise and market, and then business slows way down. Trust is a critical ingredient in sales; it is a force multiplier.

Overcome Fear with Preparation

Whether someone is going to be speaking from the stage at an event, speaking in front of fellow members at their business networking group, or getting ready to talk with a prospective client, they need to prepare. Preparation can help alleviate the anticipation, anxiety, or fear about doing something they don’t feel ready for. When you prepare yourself for what you’re about to do and you prepare for any possible change in the upcoming conversation, fear doesn’t have to be an emotional response.

Scott says it is typical to feel adrenaline, the fight or flight energy that happens when you get ready to go on stage. The question is, how do you interpret that energy? One person interprets it as fear, and they freeze. Another person interprets it as excitement, and they know they’re now ready to go. When you’ve done your preparation, if you know the anatomy and syntax of a good quality speech, and you have a mind-map so you don’t lose your spot, it’s very easy to overcome that fear. Change the meaning of the fear and change the outcome.

The One-to-Many Approach

For successful business networking, you want to get to know your referral partners – the members of your networking group. You begin to build relationships with them during the regular group meetings and through individual one-to-one meetings. At your weekly chapter meeting, you want to educate your fellow members and explain what it is that you do. You are not going to the meeting to sell, you are there to educate them on how to identify a potential referral for your business outside of the weekly meeting.

I recommend that you share stories that talk about the impact your service or product has for clients. Andy Bounds calls this “the Afters”. What does someone’s life or situation look like after you do what you do? How do they feel after doing business with you?

At some point, you may decide that you want to add more business opportunities and communicate one-to-many through a lunch-and-learn event or a podcast. These are great ways to reach many people at one time. If you can educate rather than sell, if you can ask great questions instead of just telling what you do, you’re going to have better engagement and more enrollment for your products and services.

When you can leverage yourself by talking to multiple potential customers at a time, that’s working smart, not hard.

Avoid This Mistake

One of the biggest mistakes professionals make when enrolling clients is trying to sell the facts and features to someone. That is not why people buy. Through education, sharing the trends and latest information about your industry, and understanding their needs and wants, you build trust in the relationship to be able to ask. Don’t tell, don’t sell – ask for their reasons rather than giving them yours.

 

Remember, referrals are really about enrollment as opposed to selling. You want to position yourself as an expert, not a salesperson.

I’d like to hear your thoughts, share them below. 

Don’t Reinvent the Wheelstring(26) "Don’t Reinvent the Wheel"

As businesspeople and networkers, and even in our personal lives, we often make things harder than they need to be. In the business world, there are endless opportunities to learn from the successes and mistakes of others who have ventured into the entrepreneurial waters before we did.  There is an abundance of tried-and-true techniques – for communicating, for sales, and general business practices. In fact, there are so many that some of them seem too simplistic to truly be effective.

So, what do we do?
We re-evaluate them, we “improve” upon them, and we overcomplicate them. Possibly worse, we sometimes just abandon the old way and try to start over from scratch. Yet all we succeed in doing is making things harder than they really are.

Often, we think we are smarter than those who came before us. Maybe our egos prevent us from listening to those who have more experience. The trouble with reinventing the wheel is that it exposes us to the danger of history repeating itself.

One of the biggest mistakes that people in business and in sales make is not listening to those who have experience. For some reason, they assume that they themselves know better . . . and the truth is, they don’t. There is nothing like experience; it beats education every day of the week. The only thing better is a combination of education and
experience . . . or a willingness to learn from other people’s experiences.

Avoid the Danger Zone

These are three common warning signs that you may be falling into the danger zone of reinventing the wheel or repeating work.

  • Instead of solving a problem, you invent new features to cover it up.
    First, it is poor customer service to add features to try and distract from a known issue with a product or service. Instead of wasting time coming up with new features on an old issue, invest the time to investigate the old issue and make minor changes on existing features to elevate the whole product.
  • When something with a history doesn’t work perfectly, you think it might be easier to start over.
    Without a doubt, there is always a reason why things got to where they currently are. Instead of erasing all the work of those who came before you, do some research. Talk with your predecessors and learn about the motivation that led to the choices that created the current situation. Chances are you will discover the core problem and be able to make strategic moves to target the issue, rather than completely starting over.
  • You forget that the wheel you’re thinking about reinventing is a common wheel that many businesspeople are faced with.
    Is your wheel unique to you? Or is it something that others in your profession are dealing with? If the latter, it is highly possible that many other people are also working to reinvent that wheel right now. Perhaps it is a standard business practice in your field that simply doesn’t work. Instead of putting forth resources, such as time and money, to tackle it on your own, do research to find out if there is a group in your field that is already exploring the issue. If you are working to forge new paths at the same time others are trying to do the same thing, it’s likely that you could work more effectively as a team and avoid wasting valuable resources.         

Simple Ideas Can Have a Big Impact

There are many basic sales techniques that a successful salesperson knows to be effective. They don’t look for something more complicated or involved because they know from their own experience, and from the experience of others, what works in sales and what doesn’t work. If you’ve read my book, Masters of Sales, you may have read things that seemed too simple to be effective, or you may have read ideas that you’ve heard before. Instead of being dismissed, these tactics and ideas should be embraced. Truly successful networkers and businesspeople learn from other people’s success. They remember that it is often the simplest ideas which have the biggest impact.


We can learn from others’ mistakes and avoid dooming ourselves to make the same bad decisions. We can also learn from others’ success and utilize their knowledge and experience so that we don’t reinvent the wheel.

Is there a simple lesson you have learned from another businessperson or fellow networker that has helped you achieve success? 

 

 

 

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Networking Education in Business Groupsstring(39) "Networking Education in Business Groups"

I think that all networking groups, as well as other types of professional business organizations, can benefit from regular networking education moments at their meetings.

I personally think one of the greatest volunteer positions in a BNI® chapter is the Education Coordinator role because you have an opportunity to pour into people about the things that you’ve learned. Especially for those who have served on the chapter’s Leadership Team and had some advanced training, or if you listen to the BNI Podcasts, and if you read books on business networking (I’ve written several), you can share helpful information to help all members of the group.

I designed the BNI Podcast episodes to be easily utilized as networking education moments for business professionals. They can be presented as a short summary, highlighting two–three tips or best practices. The transcripts, or portions of them, can be copied and pasted to a digital or paper document to hand out to all members and guests at the meeting. You can also play a short clip to emphasize the topic.

Immerse in a Culture of Learning

I once had an BNI Chapter Education Coordinator say to me, “I am in a chapter where the members just aren’t listening to the podcasts. And we, the leadership team, recognize that for a chapter to be successful, everybody’s got to be working off the same playbook, we’ve got to be together as a team.”

He told me his solution. The very first week in his role as the Education Coordinator he stood up and said to the group, “I basically have two choices as Education Coordinator, and I’d like your opinion on what you’d like me to do. One, you can let me know the topics that you’d like me to talk about, and each week I’ll do a short lecture on that topic. I’ll pull material from BNI podcasts, Ivan’s books, his blog, and I’ll talk about that content for you directly. Or two, we can have a dialogue. We can share ideas on what works and what doesn’t work. Which one of those two would you prefer?” He said he knew what the answer would be, and they all said, “Dialogue, please. We want to talk.”

He then told them, “Great, I was hoping you would say you wanted a dialogue. So in order for us to have an informed dialogue, we have to do the reading. We’ll take topics that you would like to talk about, I will assign a podcast, or a blog, or some material, for you to read or listen to on that topic for the next week. And if you have listened to the podcast, or read the material, you can talk. 

If you haven’t listened to the material or read it, you can’t join the discussion. And we’ll know that you listened to it or read it because you’re going to have to quote something from it. For example – Dr. Misner said this and that on the podcast, or his guest, so-and-so, made this point. But if you haven’t listened to it, you can’t talk.” And they all agreed to do it.

How did it work? Well, because the members knew that they couldn’t be part of the dialogue unless they read or listened to the material, they went from a chapter where almost no one listened to the podcast on a weekly basis, to having almost 100% participation!

This is a great way to get engagement while sharing information that will help the membership in the group and out in the business world. It is a fantastic way to help the chapter immerse in a culture of learning.

The truth is, if everyone listens to or reads the material, and then you spend a few minutes talking about it, it’s so much more real. It is much more engaging than simply sitting there listening to a lecture. And actively participating in a discussion helps people retain the information better, making it more likely that they will use it in their everyday business networking activities.

Being Right Doesn’t Matter if Nobody is Listeningstring(51) "Being Right Doesn’t Matter if Nobody is Listening"

My career has involved working with business professionals and franchisees, teaching them how to coach and guide entrepreneurs, salespeople, and other professionals to generate referrals for themselves and others. I realized early on that entrepreneurs often resist being told what to do and it takes a real skill set to move them in a direction that involves hard work and the effort necessary to help them achieve the results they want.

I found that one of the biggest challenges in this process was not with the actual entrepreneur or salesperson; it was with the individual I was coaching to help them guide the entrepreneur or salesperson. These people had gone through many hours of training, had a fair amount of field experience, and had support manuals loaded with documentation to assist in the process. They were the true experts.  

However, I discovered that sometimes expertise can actually be a problem. Just because your expertise provides you with the knowledge to recognize the solution to a particular challenge, it doesn’t mean other people are going to automatically believe that you know the solution or that they want you to even tell them the solution.
Being right doesn’t matter if people aren’t willing to listen to you.

Being an Expert

So, let’s say you’re an expert. You know you’re an expert and you know you can help someone else. You also know that this “someone else” runs their own business or is an independent sales rep who chose their specific career path for good reason . . . they like the freedom of being independent. 

How do you help move those people in the right direction for greater success?

Years ago, there was a person who worked for my company who visited one of our chapters and was appalled by how badly things were being run by the members of the group. She let them know in no uncertain terms what they were doing wrong and how they needed to turn it around. Her assessment of the situation and the solutions she proposed were spot on, however, her presentation about them was all wrong. She was so blunt with the group’s members that she received an extremely negative reaction and ended up leaving the chapter in an even bigger mess than it was when she first walked in.

When I met with her to talk about how she might have done things differently, she was furious with me for not supporting her because she was right, and the members of the group were wrong. I didn’t argue that she was right–she was. The problem I had was how she handled the situation–in that area, she was completely wrong. I tried to explain this to her, emphasizing the reminder: don’t make things worse than you found them when you were trying to fix them in the first place.

She never really grasped the concept that people may not welcome her advice with enthusiasm and agree with her stance on an issue just because she was right. She didn’t work for me for much longer. Eventually, we did get an expert to work with that group who listened to them and their issues. He built relationships with the group members, and then coached them into achieving the greatness they had within them. It is important to note that this process took time and patience. Listening to them first built the necessary trust and understanding for them to listen to him later.

Two Things to Remember

  1. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

If you want people to listen to you when you are coaching them or re-directing them, they must know that you care about them. They need to believe that you sincerely want them to succeed. If they don’t know this – they will never listen to your advice.

  1. Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.

This is a saying on a paper weight that my mother gave to me when I was 14-years old while I was running an uphill battle for a high school student council race. When she gave it to me, she explained that I had to learn how to work “with” people, not “through” people. She said that it is all about collaboration, not manipulation, and she told me that even if I did know the answer to a problem, it did no good if nobody else believed me. 


That advice helped me win the student council election and it has helped me numerous times throughout my life. Sometimes I don’t use it as well as I can – however, when I do use it, things almost always go more smoothly. By the way, that paper weight still sits on my desk to this day.

Yes, expertise is important; systems and processes are important. Equally as important is our understanding that we have to apply them in a way that shows we care.

Successful leaders coach and guide people on the ways to get them where they need to go. Those leaders help others improve their performance by supporting them through training and mentoring. They know that being right doesn’t matter at all if nobody is listening.

The Difference Between “Can’t Do” and “Won’t Do”string(60) "The Difference Between “Can’t Do” and “Won’t Do”"

I often get questions from leaders of business networking groups about what to do with a member who doesn’t participate. The member is not actively engaged, whether it’s that they are not bringing visitors, or passing referrals to others, or helping on the chapter’s mentoring or support team.

Ask the Question

My first suggestion is that the leaders of the group have a conversation with the member and ask this question: “How can we help you?”

It’s very important to begin by asking that question because if you go to a member and start criticizing them for not participating, they just get defensive. Instead, use this very powerful technique: ask how you can help them do XYZ more effectively.
It is powerful because when you ask how you can help them, they will inevitably give you one of two answers. They will give you a can’t do answer or a won’t do answer.

The person will either explain why they are having difficulty with the situation because they don’t know how to address it effectively, or they will answer in a way that illustrates that they don’t really want to do this for some reason or another.

The “Can’t Do” Answer

This story comes from my own experience with a BNI® chapter. The member was a printer who received many referrals from the group, however, he gave very few referrals to other members. We asked him, “How can we help you bring referrals?”

His answer was, “I am really struggling with this. I am having a hard time finding referrals because I don’t usually have much of a conversation with my clients other than the printing job they bring to me. They say, “I need 1000 copies of this flyer next week,” and then they leave. I don’t know if they need a CPA or a florist. I don’t know what is going on in their lives because I don’t have that kind of dialogue with them. I am struggling. I want to bring in referrals. I just don’t know how to do it.”

That is a classic “Can’t Do” answer. They want to help and participate more; they just don’t know how. When someone says they can’t do something, they are open to being coached. It is our responsibility to help those people, to teach them. Remember, we have all been a “can’t do” at some point, especially when we first started networking.

To help that printer, we recommended that he put up a board in his shop with multiple copies of each of his fellow BNI members’ business cards. Customers would pull a business card from the display and ask him, “What do you know about this person? Are they really good?” He replied, “Oh yeah. I see them every week. They’re very good.” The printer became the leading referral giver in his group. He went from a “Can’t Do” to a CAN DO, and he did it well.

The “Won’t Do” Answer

The “Won’t Do” people are a real problem in networking groups. They understand that they are not performing – and they have plenty of excuses about why they aren’t willing to do what needs to be done. When you say to them, “How can we help you bring in more referrals?” they typically say something like, “It’s really difficult for me in my profession to be able to give referrals to the people in the group.” Their excuses include they are busy… it’s too difficult… I’m different… my business is different… They are a “Won’t Do”. They are just not going to do it. It becomes obvious that they are only there to get referrals and they are not willing to give referrals for whatever reason.

My suggestion is that you open the door for them; give them a graceful exit opportunity. It is amazing how many people will remove themselves if you simply say, “It’s okay if you step down if this isn’t for you at this time. It is okay to step out and come back later when it’s more convenient.” You’d be surprised at how many people say, “I probably should step down and leave the group.” Giving them the option to leave in a positive manner allows them to save face.

If they don’t take the opportunity and want to stay because they are getting referrals, the chapter leaders need to sit down with them to explain that for their membership to continue, they must contribute back to the chapter. Whether it is bringing visitors, referrals, or supporting the group in some way, they must participate. You need to help them understand that they have to contribute within the chapter; they need to be a giver, not just a taker. At that point, they still might choose to leave the group, or they may step up and become a contributing member. Either way, it is their choice.

The concept of members being a “Can’t Do” or a “Won’t Do” applies in networking, and it also applies in management and in general business terms.
Some final thoughts:
> stay positive and solutions focused
> support people who really want to be there
> help people move out of the group who are only there to get and not to give

 

Have you experienced something similar in your networking group? Perhaps you were a member who benefited from the chapter’s help and guidance. Share your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

 

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Don’t Do THIS at Your Networking Meetingstring(42) "Don’t Do THIS at Your Networking Meeting"

Imagine yourself sitting in an important meeting with your biggest client when you get a text message. Would you stop listening to your client and completely ignore them so you could respond to the text?

What if you got a phone call . . . would you stop in the middle of your presentation as you were pitching your most important customer about your newest product in order to answer the call? 

The answer to both questions is – of course you wouldn’t! That would be a blatantly rude move on your part, and it would put your most valued client relationship at risk.

So, why in the world would anybody even consider looking at their phone during a business networking meeting??

To be clear, a good reason for looking at it, picking it up, or using your phone in any way during any type of networking meeting does not exist!

One of the fastest ways to ruin your credibility and earn a reputation of being rude, unprofessional, and undeserving of referrals is to use your phone during a networking meeting. It virtually screams to your networking partners: I don’t care what you have to say because I have better things to do right now, and this meeting is unimportant to me.

If you want positive results from your business networking efforts, then that is the last thing you would ever feel about, or say to, anyone in your network. And yet, if you are using your phone during meetings with your referral network, I promise you–not only is that the exact message you are sending them, you’re also wasting their time and yours.

Click the short video for the story of what I actually heard during an online business networking meeting.

I couldn’t believe it!

Practice Active Listening

We all understand that there is a great deal of overlap between in-person and online networking. However, networking online only works when you are engaged during the entire meeting. You need to learn about your fellow members – their business, their best customers, and their target markets, so you will know how to recognize referrals that you can give to them. Effective networking and building strong business relationships both require active listening. To do that, you have to be fully engaged in every part of the meeting, giving all of your attention to whomever is speaking. Skip the multi-tasking, keep your focus.

Now, I do believe in taking notes. When someone mentions who a good referral would be for their products or service, and I immediately think of a person in my network, I’m going to write that down so I can follow up after the meeting.

Remember, great networkers go to networking events with the intention of building relationships. That means you need to be an active participant in the entire process to get any substantive results.

My recommendation is to check your phone one last time before your networking meeting . . . check that it is completely turned off and don’t turn it back on until you leave the meeting, whether it is in-person or virtual.
Remember, networking meetings and phones don’t mix!

Networking Is About More Than Just Talking Businessstring(51) "Networking Is About More Than Just Talking Business"

Many people think that networking consists only of talking about business and exchanging cards. That is a misconception, which is definitely part of it. However, it is not all of it.

In a networking group, you want to talk about more than just business with your fellow members. A referral relationship is more than, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business.” A much better approach is to find common ground on a personal level, make connections with other people, then talk about each other’s businesses.

The longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections with potential referral partners. Successful networking is about building personal relationships. If you remove the personal part from the equation, you limit the amount of business that can happen.

The GAINS Exchange

Years ago, I developed the GAINS Exchange for BNI® members. The acronym stands for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills. The idea is to have people share personal and professional information about themselves in those five areas to find overlapping interests or activities. For instance, if you and I have a common goal of completing a marathon, that gives us something more to talk about. We share both a goal and an interest, which opens the door to an engaging conversation and strengthens our connection.

In one BNI chapter I worked with when I was testing this out, there were two participants who had known each other for more than a year but had never done business with each other and really hadn’t made any connection at all. It wasn’t that they didn’t like each other; their businesses were very different, and they didn’t seem to have anything in common. They did not want to do the GAINS Exchange together. However, once they did, they found that they were both coaches for their sons’ soccer/football teams. They quickly became close friends and started helping each other conduct certain aspects of the soccer practices and shared coaching techniques.

Guess what? Within a few months after they started interacting on a personal level, they started passing business to each other. That’s right – they began referring business to each other. Two guys who had barely spoken to each other for a year because they had so little in common, ended up doing business with each other because they built a relationship over soccer, over football. Who would have thought that? I certainly didn’t, and yet when I saw the results, I knew that this was an essential business technique for people to build their business by referral.

Using GAINS Effectively

I recommend that BNI members use the GAINS Exchange every time they have a One-to-One meeting with fellow members. It is most effective to take turns – I talk about my Interests, both personal and professional, and then YOU talk about your Interests. Then I talk about my Accomplishments, and you tell me about yours, and so on. By doing it back and forth, you each have the opportunity to ask questions that allow you to discover your common interests. This is the foundation for a successful, mutually beneficial business relationship.


During your first One-to-One with another member, you may want to start with Interests first, which are often the beginnings of a relationship.

It’s okay to go out of order, as long as you each get to talk about all five of the GAINS topics.

 

 

Keep in mind that your GAINS Exchange information will need to be updated a few times each year. When one of your Goals becomes an Accomplishment, it needs to be noted. If you learn to speak Spanish, add it to your Skills section. Joining a Rotary Club is another Network on your GAINS profile. The most successful networkers meet with their fellow chapter members more than once, allowing them to find out what’s new.

  • Goals are how we help one another. It’s much easier to give referrals to someone when you know what they are trying to achieve
  • Knowing someone else’s Accomplishments lets you build their credibility.
  • Interests help us find common ground and build rapport.
  • Discovering each other’s different Networks lets us connect one another to diverse professionals.
  • Skills provide more credibility and open doors to doing business.

Business networking really is much more than simply telling someone what you do for work. It’s all about referrals. The goal is to build relationships with people that you know and trust. When you know and trust them, you are going to have the comfort to refer them to others and they will do the same for you.


By talking about more than just business with our potential referral partners, we find common, non-business interests that endear us to the other person. We move beyond salesperson and become a friend.

I’d like to hear from you. How has talking about more than just business helped you build your professional relationships?

 

 

 

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