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.

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!

Ten Commandments for Business Networking

Ten Commandments for Business Networkingstring(40) "Ten Commandments for Business Networking"

It amazes me the number of people I meet who are at the top of their game in the business world, and yet they struggle with confidence when it comes to networking meetings. I wonder how they find networking so difficult when they are remarkably impressive performers in other areas of business.

The truth is, there are a lot of reasons people struggle with networking. Sometimes it is just confidence, and sometimes it is a lack of experience, organization, or time management.

This led me to create my Ten Commandments of Successful Networking. These are  step-by-step practical guidelines covering everything one needs to do to be a highly confident and successful business networker.

 Ten Commandments of Successful Networking

  1. Do Not Sell to Me. If we are trying to help one another get more business, you tell me your target market, I tell you my target market and when we are out in the world, we speak well of one another and refer one another. Do not try to sell to me – I’m your referral resource; you can sell through me to get to the people that I know. If I need your product or service, I will certainly call upon you. Don’t sell to me; build a relationship with me.
  2. Understand the Law of Reciprocity. If I am sending business to you, please keep me top of mind. Giving me a new client is the best thank you I can receive, and I will continue working to find referrals for you when I know you appreciate me. The Law of Reciprocity is part of social capital theory and in BNI® it is our principle core value – Givers Gain. If you help me, I’ll help you, and we’ll all do better as a result.
  3. Do Not Abuse Our Relationship. Sending me a bogus referral just to use me, my expertise, or my resources for free without asking permission first is the fastest way to lose my respect. Mutually beneficial referral partnerships are built on trust.
  4. Always Be on Time. If we have arranged a meeting to get to know one another and strategize how we can refer business to each other, don’t be late. I dedicated this time in my schedule FOR YOU, and I respect you enough to be on time. I expect the same. Don’t reschedule our appointment unless it is absolutely critical.
  5. Be Specific. Specific Is Terrific! Tell your referral partners, in a laser sharp way, how to refer to you. If you tell me your target market is “anybody” or “everybody,” that means nobody to me. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for me to find referrals for your business.
  6. Take Your Business Seriously. As your networking partner, I need to know your intentions. If your company is a hobby business, it will be difficult for me to assist you. If it is a part-time business, you are limited in the time you spend working on your business, and also in the time you have working to find referrals for me. However, if you’re working your business part-time with a goal of making it full-time, I am there for you,100%. You must be 100% in your business in order for your networking group to feel comfortable referring you.
  7. Follow Up on Referrals. When I send you a referral for potential business, please follow up with that prospect in a timely fashion– ideally within 24 hours. If you’re going out of town or will not be available for some time, a quick call, text, or e-mail to the person to let them know when you will be available will preserve your credibility AND protect my reputation in recommending you to someone I know and care about.
  1. Communicate. If I do something that upsets you, inadvertently send you a “bad” referral, or cause you to have ill feelings toward me, please communicate with me as soon as possible. I may not be aware that I have caused a problem for you. If you tell me, I can try to fix it. Referral networking is about relationships. Clear, open, honest, and direct communication is the best way to build effective relationships with referral partners.
Ten-Commandments-for-Business-Networking
  1. Protect My Reputation. Most people would rather die than risk their reputations. If I receive disparaging or derogatory feedback from a referral that I sent to you, it is as though you cut me off at the knees. Please do what you say you will do and live up to the ethical standards of your profession. Protect my reputation (and yours) by doing a good job.
  2. Prepare for Success. If you really want to grow your business, then prepare to receive more business. Does your current business plan include the next steps for your company’s growth? I will move mountains for my networking partners to ensure they get referrals on a consistent basis. 

Understanding and following these recommendations as a regular part of your business networking practices can help new and seasoned professionals network successfully. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

 

Related Blog Posts:

The Power of the VCP Process®

The Power of the VCP Process®

The VCP Process is the foundation of everything I teach about business…

READ MORE

Followup System

The 24/7/30 Followup System

Today’s topic comes from Dr. Misner’s book Avoiding the Networking…

READ MORE