The “What’s In It For Me?” Attitudestring(45) "The “What’s In It For Me?” Attitude"

A few years back, I received an email from someone who read an article I wrote about collaboration and working together. They said, “The type of networking you talk about describes the way things should work, but in the real world most people seem to have an attitude of what’s in it for me.” Then they asked, “How can I prevent wasting my time and efforts on people, only to find that they have this kind of attitude?” 

I thought it was a great question and I gave a short answer – stop hanging out with the wrong kind of people and start actively seeking out the right kind of people. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that when it comes to getting stuck with the wrong people.

To move beyond that and build a network that wants to help YOU (knowing that you also want to help them) you have to recognize that it is a journey, not a destination. Building a strong network for business success is more like a marathon than a sprint. It takes an investment of time to find and get to know those professionals with a Givers Gain® attitude with whom you can build long-term referral relationships.

How to Find Networking Partners

It starts with finding people who have a giving attitude. These are some of the traits of good networking partners:

  • People who sincerely ask how they can help you or what they can offer you before they ask anything from you.
  • Individuals who show that they are willing to create a professional relationship over a period of time, because they understand that they must develop credibility with you before asking for your business or your referrals.
  • People who make the time to go beyond normal business interactions with those whom they want to be able to ask for support in the future.
  • Professionals who understand that networking is more about farming than hunting and show it in their actions. They make the effort to get to know you outside of the business environment whenever possible, knowing that the more of a friendship there is between you, the more expectations you can both have from each other’s networking efforts.
  • People who do what they can to bring business and contacts to you and to their other networking partners. They share pertinent, helpful information with you, and invite you to business meetings that will favorably position you with others you want to meet.
  •  Individuals who give of their time and knowledge to help their referral sources succeed. They gladly celebrate the successes of their networking partners and tell others about them.

You want to find people who understand that it takes time and who are willing to GIVE business in order to get business.

Building Relationships

At its core, business networking is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships. Simply meeting someone and being visible is not enough. Having visibility without building trust won’t get you very far in the long run.

Remember, a network that is a mile wide and an inch deep is not a strong network. You want to create a personal network that is both wide and deep. Building meaningful relationships is the key to making it happen. Meet with people regularly and participate in networking groups where you see the same quality of professionals on a consistent basis. This will help you develop mutually beneficial relationships and screen out the “what’s in it for me?” types.

I think it is also important to have an abundance mind-set in business networking and referral marketing. This happens with an awareness that there is more than enough business to go around. People can sense desperation, and it is NOT referable. Successful networkers choose an abundance mind-set over a scarcity mentality.

As you read these suggestions and look for good networking partners, look at yourself. Do YOU have these traits? Are YOU willing to help others get more business before seeking business for yourself?
Instead of asking, “What’s in it for me?” ask others what you can do for them.

What are your thoughts? I’d like to hear them in the comment section.

Networking – the TRUE Definitionstring(34) "Networking – the TRUE Definition"

A recent Google search for “what is networking” provided almost six billion results! We should note that those results include computer networking. However, there are still numerous definitions for non-computer networking; the people-to-people type that so many of us want to do and for which most of us have had no formal training.

As the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI® I have seen the definition of business networking evolve over the past 37 years. And yet, the essence of what networking truly is has never changed. I share my definition in this video.

My Definition

This is my definition of networking:
Networking is the process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, and expand your sphere of influence or serve the community.

The Key Word

The key word here is relationships. Successful networking of any kind always begins with a genuine desire to build relationships for the purpose of giving and receiving business. When someone is networking only to gain and not to give, they will never be successful.

Remember – networking is more about FARMING than it is about HUNTING. It’s about cultivating relationships and taking the time and energy to help them grow and flourish. Think of it like this: a good farmer knows when to tend to his crop and when to harvest it. If you over pick, you’ll be left with nothing. But if you continue to care for and maintain your crop, it will grow abundantly and provide bountiful results.

Business professionals who are the farming type of networker go to networking events because of the opportunities to meet new people, not to use it as face-to-face cold calling. They know the importance of meeting someone and then building a relationship with them. They go well beyond the ‘hunting’ style of meeting people simply to be able to add another name to their contact list.

Building Relationships

At networking events, set your goal to make solid connections with people so that when you follow up with them, they remember who you are when you invite them out to coffee or lunch. Practice being interested, rather than interesting. Ask about them – their business and their current projects, instead of talking about yourself. This is how you begin building mutually beneficial relationships.

Then you can schedule additional times to connect and build credibility with them. Continue to find ways to help them, perhaps introducing them to a potential referral source or inviting them to visit your business networking group. As I said earlier, there must be a genuine desire to give, not just gain, when you are building deep relationships.

Whether personal and professional, all relationships evolve through three phases: Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability. The VCP Process® is useful for determining where you are in your relationship with others. Master networkers know that networking events are about moving through the process and NOT about making a sale or closing a deal. Skipping through the phases and asking for business without establishing a relationship will almost always result in a NO answer.

My definition of networking is congruent with my style of networking. I know it sounds simple; however, as with most things in life, it may be simple and yet not easy. Effective business networking takes time AND money. The best way to network is to connect with people. Get to know them. Build a relationship and learn about their business so you can help them get more business. Successful networking is about taking the time to cultivate relationships, always with an attitude of giving.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share them in the comment section below.

People Love to Buy. Don’t Sell.

People Love to Buy. Don’t Sell.string(33) "People Love to Buy. Don’t Sell."

People love to buy but they HATE to be sold to. It seems that the general public has a fairly negative attitude about sales, and salespeople. I recommend that, as a business professional, you reframe any beliefs you may have about selling and look at it as building relationships. I learned to do this a long time ago.

My history with selling began when I was 10-years old. I had lemonade stands in my neighborhood and sold old comic books, too. When I was 12, I sold chocolate bars for school fundraisers. I was selling reflective house numbers when I was 15-years old, and I worked in retail stores when I was 17. Then, in my mid-20’s, I started a consulting business. Guess what? I spent about a third of my time doing sales. Ironically, one of my early clients hired me to train his sales force on cold calling. Yep, I trained all of their salespeople how to do effective cold calls. By the way, this was long before I started BNI®.

Building Relationships

Prior to starting my consulting business, I was in my first management position working for private industry and that is where I got my first inkling about the power of building relationships. One day my boss wasn’t there to talk about the day’s assignments, so I went around to people and asked, “How can I help you?” This simple question was received quite favorably. I was able to build relationships with the people on my team by offering to help them and learning what it was that they needed most from me.

Later, I discovered that this approach worked incredibly well in “selling my consulting services”.  I looked to find ways to help people – even if it meant NOT selling them my services. The attitude of helping with a ‘giving’ approach, rather than selling, was a way to build my credibility as a caring businessperson and it brought people back to me later when they had a need. I became a connector, someone who connected them to the person or company who could help them solve their problems.

Personal Connections

As the late Jay Conrad Levinson said, nothing develops personal relationships better than personal connection. The best way to connect with someone is to show a genuine interest in them, ask questions, and LISTEN.
Remember, S-I-L-E-N-T is an anagram for listen.
Asking questions helps you uncover people’s problems.
Attentive listening helps you identify their needs and concerns.

As sales communication expert Andy Bounds says, “The prospect really only cares about his or her own present and future, whereas most presentations focus on the seller’s past and product features.” He reminds us that “Customers don’t care what you do; they care about what they’re left with AFTER you’ve done it.” Andy uses the word “after” to maintain the focus on the client’s needs, keeping it personal by asking questions such as “What are you looking to achieve after our work together?”

Building Trust

The personal connections we make help build trust. The one thing that customers have always rated highest in the sales world is trust. When you build relationships with prospective clients that are focused on the buyer’s perspective, they trust that you genuinely care about them. Remember that the buyer is looking for the best solution, delivered in an effective and pleasurable manner.

In my book, Masters of Sales, Susan RoAne shares the story about a bank that engaged her to speak with its managers about how to “work a room.” She interviewed the top salesperson who had won the award for the previous four years. She was surprised when they told her, “Yes, I won the award. But I don’t ‘sell’ anything.”

They went on to explain, “I chat with my customers at bank-sponsored events and when they come into the bank. When I see them in the community, we always take a moment to talk and catch up. I get to know them, and I let them get to know me, so they know I am a real person and not just a bank employee selling them a service. When I call with a new product, they take my conversation seriously, knowing that I don’t waste their time on something they don’t need.”

That story is an excellent example of building trusted relationships through personal connections. The top salesperson earned the title without ‘selling.’

People prefer to do business with people that they know, like, and trust. They really do want a solution for their problem, they just don’t want to be sold to. Make the potential customer feel valued and comfortable. Provide them with a great experience. Focus on building relationships, rather than  just making a sale. It is so simple, but not easy.

How do YOU build relationships with your customers and clients?

Get Specific About What You Dostring(30) "Get Specific About What You Do"

We all know the most frequently asked question that is heard at networking events, business mixers, and seminars. In fact, we have probably asked it ourselves AND have had numerous others ask us: “What do you do?”

We’re so accustomed to the question that we hardly give a thought to how we answer it. It’s not enough simply to tell your contacts your job description: “I own and operate a sporting goods store.”

Remember, effective business networking is about building relationships. To deepen those relationships, you must talk about what you do in a way that, as author Lou Cassara says, “communicates the magic of your vision expressed through your words.”
You have to get specific when you talk about what you do.

To get referrals from your networking efforts, people must know about your business. They need to understand it in a way that helps them identify potential referrals for you when they are going about their daily lives, talking with other people that you don’t yet know.

Many new networkers make a common mistake of thinking that word-of-mouth marketing is about telling everyone they meet everything they do, and that getting more referrals is simply a matter of talking to more people. The opposite is true. In getting your message across, less is more. You want to be specific with the people you build relationships with.

Your Message

Your message should be specific without using industry jargon. You want to state it in terms of benefits to the client, not features. Remember, customers choose a product or service based on its benefits, not its features. The features are simply the facts – the elements or significant parts that make up the product or service. The benefits are its value to the potential customer – how it will solve their problems and make their life better. I know it may seem odd, but the more specific you are, the more receptive the listener will be and the better your results will be.

Keep this in mind as you create your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Your USP is a brief description of the purpose of your business, stated in the most concise and compelling way possible, in order to help others understand the unique value of what you do.

Let’s look at a way to go beyond the previously mentioned job description of “I own and operate a sporting goods store.” 

One could say, “I deal in sporting goods, and I specialize in team sports. I have outfitted most of the high school football teams in the district, and I can order custom-fitted shoulder pads and helmets for all players at a substantial discount and have it delivered within five days. I also sponsor the local Youth Football teams.”

Now THAT is specific. It also passes what my friend, author and speaker Sam Horn, calls the “eyebrow test.” She says that when you give your USP to someone, listen to what they have to say and, most importantly, watch for the reaction they have. Sam says, “if their eyebrows don’t move, it means they’re unmoved.” If their eyebrows scrunch down and furrow together, you’ve confused them. However, if their eyebrows go up, Sam says your USP has succeeded. “They’re engaged, curious, and want to know more.”

Specific Gets Results

Too many business professionals and companies try to be all things to all people. Without being specific and telling ALL they that they do, their message is diluted and easily dismissed or ignored.

I recommend that you focus on the things you do well and document those things and your vision in a way that you can communicate to others. This will help teach your networking partners whom they can refer to you.

Ultimately, that is what effective business networking is all about – building trusted, mutually beneficial relationships that result in business opportunities for referral partners.
Have you found that being specific helps your networking results?

Dont Promise Just Deliver

Don’t Promise, Just Deliverstring(29) "Don’t Promise, Just Deliver"

How are you viewed in your personal and professional networks? Are you perceived as a person of action, or merely of words? The words we say and the actions we take are part of building credibility with our referral partners. A successful relationship, whether a personal or a business relationship, evolves over time. We go from being aware of each other – visibility, to being reliable and worthy of confidence – credibility.

I have found that there are three types of referral givers in business networking groups. Most professionals and entrepreneurs have heard the saying, “Under promise and over deliver,” and many of them operate with that attitude. There are also those who do the opposite; they overpromise and underdeliver. And then there are those who don’t promise at all, they just deliver.

Three Types of Referral Givers

  1. Overpromise, underdeliver
    Often, these people have a challenge with their credibility. They are always “working on something”, and yet they seldom bring any closed business to the table. They promise to make connections and introductions but never get around to doing so. They don’t follow through and, consequently, they often leave their referral partners in the lurch. Their words are empty promises.Here are two reasons why someone may talk a good game without doing what they said they would.- Some people just talk too much and never truly intend to do anything about it.
    – Some people are anxious and, while trying to help, they overcommit themselves.Whatever the reason, they are not helping because they are not following through. Other people judge them on their behavior and determine that they are someone who does not keep their promises, which hurts their credibility among their peers.
  1. Underpromise, overdeliver
    These are excellent referral partners to have in your network because they ask the right questions to get the best information to learn how to provide business referrals and opportunities for others. They may say something like, “I understand that you’re looking for a referral, however I need a bit more information. I have someone in mind who may be a good connection for you. I’ll contact them and keep you updated.”These referral partners don’t make guarantees or oversell the possibilities of a referral. Along with underpromising what they are going to do, they also maintain open and frequent communication about the potential referral with the members of their network.
  1. Don’t promise, just deliver
    Master networkers invest the time to build deep relationships. They take notes about people’s referral needs; they learn their networking partners’ target markets and how to talk about their businesses.Master networkers don’t talk about what they are going to do because they are busy formulating a plan based on everything they’ve learned. They work quietly behind the scenes to provide high-level referrals and ultimately closed business for others.The “don’t promise, just deliver” networkers often surprise others in the best possible way by giving a great referral that has the prospect ready and willing for a conversation about buying the product or service. They tell their referral partner, “Someone is waiting to talk to you. Here’s why and this is the best way to contact them.”

Be a Better Referral Partner

Here are some suggestions to become a better referral partner in your business network.
~ Listen to others, keeping a sincere desire to help them grow their business.
~ Take notes when they talk about their target market and how their product or service helps their customers.
~ Have regular one-to-one meetings with those in your network so you become familiar with different aspects of their company.
~ Understand the pertinent jargon of their industry so you will recognize it when you hear it, which can help you identify a good referral for them.

My recommendation for successful business networking is to move from “Overpromise, underdeliver” to “Underpromise, overdeliver” to “Don’t promise, just deliver!”

These are the people who have built their credibility by the words they say and the actions they take. They don’t make promises. They just deliver.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you have a tip that has made you a better referral partner?

Talking About YOUstring(17) "Talking About YOU"

To achieve success in business networking, people need to know what you do and how good you are at doing it. In referral marketing groups, you have opportunities to educate your fellow members about your products and services, as well as the way you interact with potential and existing customers. This is very important to building trusted relationships with the people in your network and for building your credibility enough that they will refer others to you.

Even though most experts discuss networking as though it is easy to talk to strangers, I know that some people find it difficult to talk about themselves. Telling others how good of a businessperson you are just doesn’t come naturally to some of us. However, to get the results you want from your business networking efforts, you must get comfortable talking about YOU.

Getting Comfortable

I recently talked with Charlie Lawson, author of the books, “The Unnatural Networker” and “The Unnatural Promoter.” He says that many professionals are great at what they do. They provide amazing products and top-notch services to their satisfied and devoted clients. And yet, as a businessperson, they may feel uncomfortable with self-promotion and would rather completely avoid talking about themselves.

The best way to get comfortable is to have a group of people around you, people with whom you have good relationships, and who want to help you. When you have established deep, trusted relationships with the members of your networking group, and you’ve educated them about your business capabilities, they will begin talking about you with others. They will go out and promote you for you.

Third-Party Endorsement

The third-party endorsement has always been an effective way to promote yourself.
In my first major book, “The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret,” I discuss the fact that people are more likely to talk about you when they’re upset with you than when they are happy with your services. What you need to do is mobilize those people who are satisfied with your business, and train them to talk about you and how to talk about you effectively. That’s when you get those third-party testimonials that are so powerful.

Referral marketing works when you build strong relationships with your referral partners and are comfortable enough to talk about your business skills and strengths with them. When they are confident in your abilities, they will talk about YOU and refer other people – potential clients, to you.

This works both ways; you need to talk about and find referrals for your referral
partners, too. Remember, the Givers Gain® philosophy is based on the age-old adage of “what goes around comes around,” and giving is just as important as gaining.

I’d like to hear your experience with getting comfortable talking about yourself when networking and invite you to share in the comments.

Business Networking is a Marathonstring(33) "Business Networking is a Marathon"

Business networking truly is a marathon of an endeavor – it is most definitely NOT a sprint.  I have met many people who practice ‘hyperactive networking’ who approach their networking efforts at the speed of an all-out sprint. They want to be everywhere, meet everyone, and go, go, go at such a pace that they inevitably ‘collapse’ due to burn-out and have nothing to show for their efforts.

Activity is Not an Accomplishment

Years ago, I met a woman who was known as the consummate networker. She had hundreds, perhaps thousands of contacts, giving her a broad network made up of people from all different walks of life. She was very well known in her community as the go-to person for anything that anybody needed.

One day, she pulled me aside and dropped a bombshell…. she said that her networking efforts weren’t really paying off for her. She went on to tell me about all the groups that she went to, all the people she met, how she had made so many good contacts and was continuing to make more all the time, but she wasn’t getting any solid business from all her efforts. I asked her how many networking events she went to each week, and she said she was going to at least five, and sometimes she went to more!

Why wasn’t she seeing real results? Because despite her amazing talent for making contacts and gaining visibility, she never really got to the heart of what networking is all about – building relationships.  She was so busy running around and making appearances that she wasn’t ever learning how to actually “work” the business networks she had created to build deep relationships with people and develop credibility with them.

It’s true that she was visible in the community; she was very visible. The problem was that she viewed “activity” as an “accomplishment” when it came to her networking efforts. Her network was, in fact, a mile wide, but only an inch deep. She had not taken the next, and most important, step with the many people in her wide-reaching network. She never devoted the time to develop the kind of rapport with any of them that would allow them to really get to know her, like her, trust her, and want to pass referrals to her.

Networking is About Building Relationships

I recently saw the same thing with someone I’ve known for a few years. He made a consistent habit of going to every single networking meeting and event that he could go to, and he was incredibly visible. Not only was he always at networking meetings, he was always full of energy and enthusiasm from the time he arrived, to the time he left. Again, the problem was in no way due to the lack of activity, effort, or enthusiasm regarding putting himself out there and meeting new people.

The problem was that he was running around so much that he never stopped long enough to spend the time necessary to establish the kind of long-term roots that lead to an ongoing, reciprocal referral relationship. The end result was that he got a severe case of networking burnout! He went from going everywhere and meeting everyone possible, to going nowhere and meeting almost no one. A year later his business went under.

Networking is More About Farming Than It Is About Hunting

If your goal is to significantly grow your business by simply making as many contacts as possible, you will never build a powerful personal network. If you are networking with the ‘sprint’ approach, you’re almost guaranteed to get burned out. Constantly bouncing around from event to event is exhausting and ineffective. There needs to be a balance between the visibility-creating aspect of your networking efforts, and the credibility-creating aspects of your networking efforts.

One way to accomplish this is to schedule regular one-to-ones with people you’ve met, in order to go deeper in understanding the services that they offer, and how you might be able to refer them. Most importantly, it’s a way for them to do the same for you.

Case in point is another woman who was a real estate agent in California who shared with me that her business grew dramatically during a major recession in the past, because she decided to develop a network that was both wide and deep in some places.

She took my advice and did at least four one-to-ones a month with people in her network. She focused on building relationships. And once she was convinced that she had found a good business opportunity for some of her contacts, she would actually phone the contact on the spot and put them together with the person that she was meeting with. This created powerful introductions that led to business.

From this activity, she ended up giving twice as many referrals to other people as she had in the past. More importantly, she received twice as many referrals as she had from people in the past. She was treating the process more like a marathon than a sprint. This is a great example of how networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It is all about building relationships with key people.

What is amazing about this story is that it happened at a time when businesses were dealing with a massive recession and the fallout from that recession. More importantly, the businesswoman was in a profession that was hit as hard or harder than the overall majority. Despite the conditions around her, she used her relationship building skills to create long-term referral relationships.

At its core, business networking is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships. Yes, visibility is important, however, without building trust right along with it, visibility won’t get you very far in the long run. It is about treating networking like a marathon, not a sprint.

When it comes to networking, sometimes you have to slow down to go fast.

Telling Your Company’s Storystring(30) "Telling Your Company’s Story"

If you want to get referrals from your networking efforts, people must know about your business. There are two kinds of audiences that need to know your company’s story. One is the people you interact with directly while networking. These could be people you meet and exchange pleasantries with at a chamber of commerce event, or people in a dedicated referral networking group such as BNI®. These are the people you want to build relationships with so that they may become reliable sources of referrals for you.

The other audience is people you don’t meet, at least not right away, but who are told about you by your networking partner or referral source. They are your prospective clients or customers that your networking partners are connected to.

Your Unique Selling Proposition

Many businesspeople think that word-of-mouth marketing is about telling everyone they meet everything they do, and that getting more referrals is simply a matter of talking to more people. Quite the opposite. In fact, it is often boring to people and overwhelming with much more information than they can remember.
In getting your message across, less is more.

You want to come up with a succinct, memorable unique selling proposition (USP) that you can use at all your business networking events.

Your USP is a brief description of the purpose of your business, stated in the most concise and compelling way possible, in order to help others understand the unique value of what you do.

A good USP simply tells people what you do in a manner that gets them to ask how you do it. Think of it as your answer to the inevitable question about work: “What do you do?” 

THREE STEPS TO CREATE YOUR UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION

  1. Focus on two or three target markets for your business – groups of people for whom your product or services are best suited. 
  2. Identify some challenges facing your target market that you and your business can help solve. 
  3. Create a one- or two-sentence USP using this formula: “I help ____ [target market] ____ [solve this problem].”

USP Examples

Your unique selling proposition tells people the type of client you work with and the benefits you provide to them.

“I work with bright, successful, family-oriented business owners who are so busy on the immediate that they lose sight of the fundamentals that can affect their family’s financial well-being.”
– a financial advisor

“I help nonprofit organizations connect with their community through the game of golf.”
– a golf fundraising specialist

“I work with municipalities on capital improvement projects in the areas of water, wastewater, and drainage.”
– a project engineer

An effective USP is short and straight to the point. When you share it with someone who fits your target market, or who knows someone in your target market, it should elicit the question, “How do you do that?”, which leads to further conversation about your business.

This is a great way of telling your company’s story while highlighting how you can help others. It is important to have a good USP because it describes your business in terms of the needs it can fill and allows people to decide whether they want to learn more.

What is YOUR one-or-two sentence unique selling proposition? I invite you to share it in the comments.

Referrals Work Both Ways

Referrals Work Both Waysstring(24) "Referrals Work Both Ways"

When you receive a referral from your networking group, it directly benefits your business. When you give a referral to someone in your group, it strengthens your network while benefiting your referral partner.

If you have a growing customer base, you’re going to be generating a lot more business for your referral partners. To strengthen your referral network and keep your business growing, you need to make sure your networking partners can handle all the referrals you will be providing.

Because referrals work both ways, it is important to build trust and develop deep relationships with your fellow networking members. You want to have One-to-One meetings with them; get to know them and their business well enough to understand the scope of their services and products. You can ask them detailed questions about their company to find out who their ideal customers are and how they are able to best serve them. This will help you identify possible referrals for them. You may want to ask about their plans for business growth to determine if they can accommodate the potential increase in clients from future referrals.

When you offer your referral partner a business opportunity they can’t handle, several things can happen. They may try to provide the product or service but do a poor job, upsetting the customer – your friend or colleague – which can damage your reputation.

They may pass the referral along to another businessperson that you don’t know, taking control of your referral relationship away from you and putting your reputation at risk. Or they may decline the referral, forcing you to spend additional time finding another person to give the referral to. You may have to go outside your network to put the prospect in touch with someone who can get the job done, which defeats the purpose of your referral network. You may even have to admit to your contact that you cannot help them after all.

Your ability to handle referrals from your network is equally important to your network’s ability to handle referrals from you. If your business grows big and strong but your referral network doesn’t, you will eventually become a network of one.

To keep this from happening, recruit new people and new professions to extend your network for the benefit of all members and take every opportunity to enhance your networking partners’ businesses. A true master networker works on building not just their own business, but the businesses of their fellow networkers, too.

Networking Takes Time and Money

Networking Takes Time and Moneystring(31) "Networking Takes Time and Money"

A BNI® Executive Director told me that before becoming a BNI Member in 2014, they had a home security business for 16 years. For five of those years, they spent $5,000 USD a month to advertise in the Yellow Pages part of their local phonebook. They spent $300,000 USD in five years to get some leads! They only got leads – people who were calling around to two or three companies listed in the phone book. As the leads dwindled, they invested in a membership in BNI, a global networking organization, and within two years the amount of business they received was at the highest level of what was achieved from all the Yellow Pages advertising. Their monetary investment in their membership was substantially less than $5,000.

Business networking takes time AND money. To be effective, you must invest in both.
By investing the time to build relationships with fellow members of the group, this person received real referrals – a warm introduction to customers who were looking for their services.

Oftentimes people get so caught up in the money part of networking, that they neglect the building relationships part and the time that is necessary for successful results. Paying more money does not always mean that you get more results.     

Track Your Results

How do you know if your networking efforts are paying off for you? You can do some simple tracking.
How many business organizations do you belong to?
How much time do you spend in networking efforts with people in that organization?
How much money does it cost to belong to the group? This includes travel to meetings, meals, and other expenses in addition to the membership fee.
How much money have you made from business generated in each of the organizations?
Which people in your groups are the ones giving you referrals that result in closed business?
Are you consistently thanking those people, and are you looking for ways to also give referrals to them

If you are paying for group memberships and are simply “busy” with networking activities without creating deep business relationships, it is hard to reach the goals that you want to achieve. By measuring the time and money you give to your networking efforts, you will be able to adjust your networking strategies to make them more effective in getting the results you want.

Thank You for Closed Business

In BNI, the members use a mechanism called Thank You for Closed Business (TYFCB) to track the amount of business generated between, and for, each other. Reporting the TYFCB provides a way to recognize the people who pass quality referrals to other members. It also allows each BNI Chapter to see the combined results of their networking efforts in tangible numbers. Many of the 10,400+ global BNI chapters regularly generate $1+ million USD each month for their members.

In fact, in the rolling last 12 months, BNI Members generated $18 Billion USD in Thank You for Closed Business! That’s an enormous figure. Because it can be hard to imagine a billion of anything, we’ll explore that figure in another way.  

Let’s look at time – time measured in seconds. If you measured $1 Million in seconds, it would be 1.65 weeks. If you measured $1 Billion in seconds, it would be 31.7 years! And $18 Billion would be more than 570 years!! That is a LOT of business resulting from referrals between networking members!

Beyond the Dollar Figures

Yes, tracking our networking activities can show us the dollar figures that result from those efforts. However, there is more beyond those figures that may be harder to see. There is also the community impact. We all live in the smaller economies of our cities, towns, and neighborhoods. Those networking dollars help to stimulate local economies and contribute to the huge economic engine that is moving all over the globe.

It takes time to build a business – you have to spend time cold calling; you spend time talking to your existing clients to get referrals; you’re going to do advertising which costs money. Oh, and how do you make the money? You make the money by spending a lot of time doing direct selling. To me, networking is so much easier than direct selling. And it’s a great use of your time because it truly is about farming not hunting

You may be in business alone, but you do not have to BE alone in business when you are part of a powerful network. Successful business networking takes time AND money. Investing your time with like-minded, positive people, and building strong business relationships will help you reach your goals.

If you were paying $5,000 a year for your network – how would you treat it differently than you are now?  Try treating it like that type of investment and see what results you get.

What Is One Thing That’s Working?string(35) "What Is One Thing That’s Working?"

Sometimes a networking or business group becomes so obsessed with what isn’t working that they lose sight of what is working. This is especially true when they are having challenges and struggling.

I have found that the best thing to do is ask the members:
“What is one thing that is working for you in the group?”

When I did this activity with BNI® Chapters in years past, I always heard:
“Referrals. I am getting business.”
There were also many other answers that were frequently given:

  • I’m building great relationships.
  • It’s brought out the best in me.
  • I’m a better speaker than I was before BNI.
  • It’s increased my knowledge of other people’s businesses.
  • I’ve learned how to listen more proactively.
  • It gives me a support group.
  • It helps me set marketing goals.

It Goes Beyond Referrals

When a networking group follows a proven system that encourages education and practices accountability and maintains a positive environment, the members of that group benefit in many ways beyond referrals. As you can see in the answers above, they experience personal growth, professional development, and a trusted, supportive group of like-minded people.

Successful networking groups attract quality business professionals, striving to seek a balance between members with many years of experience and those who are newer to their industry. They create a diverse network that includes people with different interests and backgrounds who bring a wide range of ideas and connections that can lead to opportunities for fellow members.

Focus On Solutions

If you focus on problems, you become an expert on problems. If you focus on solutions, you become an expert on solutions. This is true for people AND for groups or organizations. By asking the members to talk about what’s working for them, it reminds them of the tangible, and intangible, benefits of growing their business through referral marketing with their networking group.

This simple question is one of the best ways to help a group that is challenge focused or obsessed about problems to get to the point where they can do a Mindset Reset.

What is one thing that’s working for you in your networking group? I invite you to share in the comments.

Give Up the Excuses and Invitestring(30) "Give Up the Excuses and Invite"

Many professionals and entrepreneurs know that whatever the current business climate might be, their networking groups are a consistent place for business referrals, resources, and support. Relationships built with like-minded people who want to help each other succeed are the ones that can sustain a business in challenging times.

I’ve heard wonderful stories from people whose investment in building strong relationships has made the difference in their business surviving and even thriving.

However, I am also surprised when those same people who say, “I love my networking group!” are often the ones who consistently attend the meetings alone. Without a visitor. Without inviting a friend to go with them.

I’m hearing a lot of excuses about why professionals who love business networking aren’t inviting other people to enjoy it, too. These are some of the excuses:
‘The economy is not good.’
‘The economy is too good.’
‘I don’t know anyone to invite.’
‘People I invite don’t show up.’

Well, guess what? I’ve been hearing the same excuses for the past 36 years! 

Why Invite People to Network with You

If you have received business from your networking groups, you KNOW the benefits of referral marketing. Remember, it’s okay to share. It’s okay to share those business opportunities with others, especially with people that you already know.

Think about every place you do business with – either professionally or personally. THEY may be looking to grow their company or increase their client base. As one of their customers, you obviously know, like, and trust them enough to give them your business, so why not invite them to meet your networking group?

There are enough business opportunities for everyone. When you embrace a Givers Gain® attitude and an abundance mindset, you know that sharing opportunities with others can bring beneficial connections, increased business referrals, and the joy of helping someone else succeed.

The Excuses

The Economy

When the economy is not good, people are struggling, they may not know where to turn to for help with their business – they need their networking group.

When the economy is good, people need their networking group because their competition is making it difficult for them to be successful. A trusted group of fellow professionals becomes a reliable source of referrals in ALL economies.

Don’t Know Anyone

Guess what? In the early days of BNI® I once said these words, “I don’t have anybody else to invite.” Well, was I wrong! A BNI Member gave me suggestions that helped me find lots of people to invite.
More ideas of who you can take to visit your networking group:
Your company’s vendors
Your company’s customers and clients
Your family and friends
Your neighbors – personal near your home, and work neighbors near your office

People you like. People who are fun. People you care about and want to help.
There are LOTS of people just waiting to meet your networking partners. Invite them.

They Don’t Show Up

“People I invite don’t show up.” That has happened to me. Yes, I’m the Founder of BNI, the world’s largest networking organization, and it has happened to me, too. It’s okay.

Dr. Mark Goulston says, “We have a lot less control over winning or losing at something than we do over trying or quitting something. Always try. You can eventually win. If you always quit, you can never win.”

This is so true. Get over the fear of rejection. Someone who says ‘no thanks’ to your invitation does not diminish your success in any way. Keep inviting. Some will say yes, some will say no. Continue inviting anyway. Keep giving people the opportunity to learn about networking.

Remember, excuses don’t bring results. You can have excuses, or you can have success.

Think back to your first visit with your favorite networking group. Think about the person that let go of their excuses and decided to invite YOU to that meeting.

Whether your business networking is in-person or online, you can extend an invitation to have someone visit the meeting with you.
Give up the excuses and INVITE. You’ll both be glad you did.

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