Crucial Conversations

Crucial Conversationsstring(21) "Crucial Conversations"

Most of us have heard the phrase “It’s not so much about what you say, it’s more how you say it that really matters.” I learned the hard way how true that phrase really is. Conversations can be tricky–especially when one or more of the people involved are upset.

When I first started BNI® in the mid-1980s, there were only a handful of chapters while the organization was in its very beginning stages, and it was still small enough that I was able to make personal visits to chapter meetings. One day, I got a call from a chapter president who asked if I would come to their next meeting and offer some insight into how they could improve because they were having some challenges keeping their networking group running smoothly and effectively.

I was happy to help however I could, so I went to their next meeting, sat back, and observed. When the chapter president called me to the front of the room and asked me to offer my feedback, I stood up and began to go over my list of suggestions and changes they should make to improve their effectiveness. Suddenly, one of the chapter members raised her hand and said, “Excuse me but who in the heck do you think you are, sashaying in here and telling us everything you think we’re doing wrong?!–You don’t know anything about us!”

Respond or React

How did I respond?  I didn’t respond . . . I reacted. I went with my gut reflex, which was to defend myself, saying that I was the founder of the organization. I tried in vain to argue that my points were valid and that they needed to listen to what I had to say if they wanted to improve. The way I handled it was completely ineffective because, in a heated situation where somebody was obviously very upset and already convinced I was the enemy, I had no strategy for guiding the conversation in a positive, solutions-focused direction.

That day, on my commute back home from the meeting, I spent the first twenty minutes fuming about how rude the woman was to me. I had gotten up early to drive over to their chapter meeting, taking time out of my day to go above and beyond to help them! In the privacy of my own car, with my blood boiling, I drove through traffic flaring my nostrils, vehemently muttering several choice words (which I will not detail here) while I verbally bashed them for being so ungrateful.

Then I started to calm down and think about how I might have handled the situation differently and it was during that same car ride that I came up with BNI’s corporate policy on customer support and handling customer complaints. Here are some of the points from that policy.

Important Points

  • Remember–people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • Listen and let them talk.  Then . . . listen, listen, listen.
  • Ask questions.  Then . . . listen!
  • Acknowledge the information.
  • Understand their complaint and ask how you can help.
  • Follow up.
  • Thank them.
  • Remember–diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.  Be diplomatic!

Some years later, I came across the book, Crucial Conversations, which teaches people how to prepare for high-stakes situations, transform anger and hurt feelings into powerful dialogue, create situations where it is safe to talk about almost anything, and to be persuasive not abrasive.

Some of the tactics and strategies in the book were right in line with what I outlined for BNI’s policy on dealing with tense situations. It also has additional tactics that are immensely helpful for ensuring that whatever it is you are trying to say in any given situation is presented in the best possible way (i.e., “how you say it”) to achieve the best possible results for everyone involved.

I think that ALL conversations are crucial on some level because once you say something you can’t take it back and saying the wrong thing may have tremendously negative repercussions. Whether you are conversing with your fellow networkers, your business associates, or with loved ones that are closest to you, it’s always best to know what you want to say and how you want to say it before anything comes out of your mouth.
Take it from someone who learned this the hard way.




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Class Reunions: Do’s and Don’tsstring(35) "Class Reunions: Do’s and Don’ts"

Many countries throughout the world have class reunions for high school and sometimes for college, too. During a recent radio interview, I was asked, “What do you do at a class reunion? How do you make it worthwhile for yourself?” I thought it might be of value to share the answers that I gave for each of the questions.

Elevator Pitch: What to say when you’re asked, “What have you been up to? What do you do?”

The idea with an elevator pitch is to tell people what you do in a very short period of time. And it’s important in that elevator pitch, or your weekly presentation at your networking group, to keep it simple. Don’t try to tell everything you do in a short amount of time. Avoid using industry jargon. Share your Unique Selling Proposition.  

You want to talk about what makes you different, and, more important than anything else, you want to be very clear about what things will look like after you do what you do. Don’t just say, “I’m an accountant.” or “I’m a lawyer.” Describe how the situation has changed for a client after they have used your services or products.

Body Language: Is there a way to stand that subliminally invites people to have a conversation with you?

I’ve written and talked about the importance of open groups, and about Open Twos and Open Threes in previous blogs and BNI Podcasts. You always want to be in a stance that is inviting

You want to make and maintain good eye contact throughout the conversation, too. I believe it is really important to stay focused on the person that you are talking with. I also think it’s important to use some hand gestures. Not where your hands are constantly moving, however, you can use gestures that are well matched to your message. Your facial expressions are something else to be aware of, remember that every facial expression tells a story. 

Should you keep the conversation light? How personal should you get?

My answer is that contextual intelligence is key here. How well you knew them in school should determine how deep you go in a conversation. If you knew each other well, it’s okay to talk about more personal topics than if you barely knew them. If you barely knew them in school, don’t try to go into a deep conversation.

What if you’re feeling nervous about going?

I think many people might feel nervous about something like a reunion. My advice is to reach out to a couple of your friends from school if you’re nervous about going. Contact some people that you’ve kept in touch with and see if they’re going to the event. If so, make sure to meet with them as soon as you get there. If you meet somebody that you were good friends with in high school or in college as you arrive, then you’re going to feel more comfortable walking into the reunion. 

How can you become an “opportunity magnet” at your class reunion?            

Remember that the reunion is an opportunity to reconnect with people. Master networkers keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities to help others. When a former classmate says they have a problem or are looking for someone in a certain industry, offer to connect them to someone you know who can help them. When you learn about their profession, ask how you can help them in their business. Being helpful can make you memorable after the reunion.

Should you try to sell your product or service?

My answer is brief. NO – absolutely don’t sell to them. Don’t make the mistake of using the class reunion as a face-to-face cold calling opportunity. Desperation is not referable, it’s not saleable. I’ve gone to class reunions where people have done that. It just doesn’t work. People really do want solutions for their problems, they just don’t want to be sold to – especially at a school reunion.

Update social media?

Should you update your LinkedIn page or your social media before you go to the event?
My answer is YES. You always want to keep your social media pages up to date because anyone who really wants to connect with successful people at the reunion is going to do a search on you to see how you’re doing and what you’re up to.

What about following up?

How do you follow up with revived contacts after the reunion? Do you reconnect on social media, ask for their phone number, or what?
You definitely want to reconnect and keep in touch with old friends. I recommend that you ask for their business card or ask for their social media moniker and then connect with them either via social media or by email after you see them at a class reunion. Reminder: don’t try to sell to them when you follow up!

I hope you find these tips useful when you attend YOUR class reunion so that you have an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.
Share your story about using these suggestions in the comment section below.





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The 2nd Annual BNI Founder’s Daystring(34) "The 2nd Annual BNI Founder’s Day"

In April of 2021, I announced something that I had been contemplating for quite a while: a special day of one-to-one meetings with BNI Members from around the world. The idea came to me from “The West Wing” TV series – the episode titled ‘The Big Block of Cheese,’ which was based on something that U.S. President Andrew Jackson did in 1835. The tradition from that episode motivated me to begin a networking variation of the idea.

As the Founder of BNI®, I will have one day each year that is full of meetings with BNI Members who want to talk with me about their networking and business questions.
This year, during the 2nd Annual BNI Founder’s Day, I had the honor to meet with twelve members from around the world:

Anshu Harsh, India
Alpesh Mehta, India
Muhanthis Ehsan, Sri Lanka
Bhawana Satwani, UAE
Paulo Roberto Freitas, Brazil
Karina Megna, Argentina (with translator Gabriela)
Chayne Riggs, USA
Chris Vezina, Canada
Angelica Lobo, Mexico (with husband Alberto)
Angel Hammering, USA
Paulita Baclig, Philippines
Daryl Lee, Singapore

It was great to talk with each of them! These twelve members were selected from more than 220 requests that were received this year. I was so impressed with all the submissions that came in that I decided to offer a group meeting to all of the other members who sent in a request. Through these two invitation-only Group Meetings I had the pleasure to visit with dozens more BNI Members. I intend to continue this new tradition during the annual event.

Additionally, through social media, I asked BNI Directors and Members to hold their own BNI 1-2-1 meetings during Founder’s Day, which many people did – thank you. Next year, I will again suggest that the BNI community use Founder’s Day as a day of intentional one-to-one meetings with other members in their chapter, region, or country.

I am so appreciative of everyone who participated in this year’s event and look forward to doing it again next year.

BNI Members, watch for my social media announcement in April 2023 for YOUR opportunity to be part of the 3rd Annual BNI Founder’s Day on June 29th.  

Wishing you all continued networking success!


Cancer in the Corner Officestring(27) "Cancer in the Corner Office"

This piece is based on an article I wrote for in 2015.  It might be of value to any business person who is thinking about making their health challenge public:

I’ll never forget the day that I was first diagnosed with cancer ten years ago.

It was the perfect springtime day and I had a weekend getaway planned with the family. All I had to do before heading to the resort was drop into the doctor’s office to get the results of a recent biopsy. I was told that the test was mostly just a precaution so I wasn’t particularly worried about it. I should have been. The biopsy came back positive for Prostate Cancer. 

After the initial shock and resulting conversations with my close family, I started to think about how I was going to handle this within my company. As the Founder and senior executive of an international referral marketing organization, BNI, I have a fair amount of public recognition and I am the public figure for the company. Thinking about how my diagnosis would affect my company, many questions ran through my mind:

  • Should I try to keep the diagnosis secret?
  • Do I only tell key people?
  • Would I still be able to run the company during treatment?
  • Or do I need to hire someone to take on my role?
  • Seeing this as a potential weakness, would our competition try and take advantage of us during this time?
  • And at the end of the day, will my illness hurt the bottom line of the organization?

To me, the answer to the first question would help determine the direction I would take with the others.

So, I started with the question of keeping it secret.  Let me first say that this is a very personal decision. Everyone’s experience is different and I can completely respect if someone chooses to tell virtually no one. I however, did not choose that direction. BNI is a business networking, “word-of-mouth” organization. The idea of keeping that kind of secret in an organization like ours seemed impossible to me. So rather than try to keep it private, I chose to “go public”. I thought this strategy would help me guide the messaging. Note that I didn’t say “control the message” because I can tell you from first-hand experience – you cannot control it. However, I do believe you can guide and influence the message greatly by coming out in front of it.


Having decided to go public, I did it with a communication plan in place. After I decided what I was going to do for my treatment and why, I created a communication hierarchy of who I was going to tell and when. Below is the communication hierarchy I used for the dissemination of information. All of these were done within a three day period:

  1. Extended family
  2. Close personal friends
  3. Key management of the company
  4. Employees at the Headquarters office
  5. Franchisees world-wide
  6. Global employees and independent contractors
  7. Our clients
  8. The public through my blog and social media

Since I opted for transparency in regards to my diagnosis and treatment, I chose to not hire someone to take on my responsibilities. Instead, I asked for help from those people who worked for me directly and indirectly. I asked if my close team would step up and fill in for me as needed and if my extended team (such as franchisees) would allow me more flexibility with project due dates and serious matters that would normally require my personal attention such as contract issues. They did so without hesitation.  

As for competition, that was easy. I have always believed that we shouldn’t worry about what our competition is doing (know what they are doing but don’t obsess over it) and instead, focus on improving our business every day. If we continued to do that with the team that was in place, we would not have to obsess over the competition and we didn’t.

That left the question of our bottom line. Before I answer that, let me discuss my mindset a little further. I chose transparency as the approach to my diagnosis. Transparency to the point that I posted multiple blogs on my website talking very specifically about what treatment approach I was pursuing and how I was doing every few months. I knew that if I didn’t update people, they would fill in the blanks themselves and it may or may not be accurate. I wanted to put the message out there myself – whether it was good or whether it was bad. I set sail for that approach not knowing how it would end. 

My organization was able to follow my journey first-hand. They did not have to guess or wonder what I was doing. I put it all out there publicly and rumors did not flourish.

So, how did the company do during this period? Well, since my diagnosis the company has grown by triple digits. I think that happened because I had good people in place who were willing to step up when the boss was down. If I had to do it all over again – I’d do it exactly the same way.

A Personal Updatestring(17) "A Personal Update"

I greatly appreciate the support, positive energy, and encouragement I have received over the past ten years. As you may know, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012 and I chose transparency as the approach to my diagnosis (I’ll share the full story in my next blog). Over the years I have shared my journey on my website and through social media posts. I feel that this has served me well and I plan to continue to do so.

Back in March 2012, I was told that I had six months to have surgery. After extensive research about all of the options available at that time, I chose a holistic route for myself and was able to go ten years without surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. 

Now the time has come for me to employ a Western Medicine option. With my medical team’s advice and expertise, I am moving forward with a procedure called CyberKnife proton therapy. It is outpatient, non-surgical, and will take place over two weeks. The success rate of this procedure is extremely high.

Before the two-week procedure begins, there are preparations to be made and those appointments start this week. I will share updates over the next 6-7 weeks through my social media.

I am very grateful for the continued support that many have shown me while I have been on this long journey. Thank you.

The View From Your Windshieldstring(29) "The View From Your Windshield"

There is a reason why your windshield is larger than your rearview mirror. It’s important to have the clearest view possible of where you are going. As a result, your windshield is substantially larger than your mirrors.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to know what’s behind you and to learn from where you’ve been. However, if all you are looking at is your rearview mirror, it’s because you’re going backwards. When you do that in life, you are not living in the present and you are not aware of what may be ahead of you. The view from your windshield is the view to everything that is possible.

Know Where You Want to Go

Sometimes in life we do need to go backwards a little bit. However, as soon as possible, we need to put that car in Drive and move forward to our intended destination. To get to that destination, we should have a map or an app to take us where we intend to go. We set our goal and identify the route to reach it. Sometimes, we have to take an alternate route because of heavy traffic or accidents along the way (both good metaphors for life).  But in either case – you need to have a general idea of where you want to go. 

I know people who work hard, have a fast-paced life, and are always very busy, but they don’t set life goals (and some don’t even set business goals). From my perspective, most of these people are lost. They are lost because if you don’t know where you want to end up, going faster won’t get you there quicker.

Continue to Move Forward

Windshield wipers are another great metaphor for life. Sometimes the weather is so bad, you need something to help keep things clear. Other times, you need even more help than that. Years ago, I was driving with my family up to our lake house in Big Bear, California. Suddenly, we hit a patch of fog that was so incredibly thick, I could not see the road in front of me at all!  Worse yet, we were driving up a mountain and I couldn’t see anyplace that was safe to move the car off the road. So, I rolled down the window and stuck my head out and literally drove ahead looking down at the little white ceramic Botts’ Dots that are on so many highways throughout the country. [By the way, they are called Botts’ Dots after Elbert Botts who invented them in the 1950s.]  I drove very, very slowly staying in alignment with the Dots while my wife looked ahead to warn me if she saw the lights of any car ahead of us (thankfully, she didn’t). After a mile or two, the fog cleared enough for me to roll up my window and simply drive ahead slowly. 

To me, the metaphor for this is that sometimes we may need an assist to get where we are going. It may be our life partner or business teammates or a mentor who helps us see more clearly. The key is – we generally need to continue to move forward (safely – of course) in order to get to where we want to go.  

Remove Obstructions

One final observation – don’t let objects obstruct your view out of your windshield. There will be people in life that will get in the way of where you are heading. Don’t let them.  There will be people who want to stop you or keep you from looking forward. Don’t let them do that either. Keep the windshield of your life as uncluttered as you should keep the windshield of your car.

Your rearview mirror is to see what is behind you, what you already passed, and what is in the past. With the crazy times we live in, it is more important than ever to remember that your windshield is larger than your rearview mirror for a very good reason.

From this moment forward, know that it is the view out of your windshield that will take you where you want to go in life.

Competing in the New World of Workstring(34) "Competing in the New World of Work"

My friends, Kian Gohan and Keith Ferrazzi, have written a new book and they have given me permission to excerpt it here as a blog. I invite you to read this excerpt from their book, “Competing in the New World of Work: How Radical Adaptability Separates the Best from the Rest.”

Beyond large Fortune 1000 enterprises like Domino’s Pizza and NOV, consider how smaller organizations in different industries have also leveraged new technologies to evolve their businesses. Founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner, BNI is a business referral network for executives, entrepreneurs and small business owners. BNI has over 10,000 chapters and more than 280,000 members worldwide. Every week, BNI chapters meet over breakfast to conduct a standardized networking exercise focused on targeted referrals. Members stand up and have 30 seconds to introduce themselves and their work. After self-introductions, members stand up again and individually offer three specific referrals in their personal networks that might be potential client leads for other chapter members. 

These aren’t just casual referrals. BNI members develop deep social capital with each other, and believe that both parties benefit when they refer their personal social networks to other BNI members. They call this core value “Givers Gain.” And indeed, in 2020 BNI passed 11.5 million referrals to their members, generating over $16 billion worth of business for members. That’s more than twice the GDP of the country of Lichtenstein!

In 2018, Dr. Ivan Misner suggested to the company’s board of directors that he believed the future of face-to-face networking is online, and that unless BNI experimented and adopted new technologies like mixed reality, holographic presence, and video communication channels, BNI would be negatively disrupted in its next decade. He was prescient and foresaw the rise of remote work, even before the pandemic. By March 2020, all 10,000 BNI chapters had pivoted to online networking – a dramatic business shift for an organization with a 3-decade history dedicated to in-person business networking. Fast-forward to mid-2021, and BNI added 500 new chapters during the pandemic year, all of which have only ever met online! Thus confirming Dr. Misner’s belief that every organization needs to adopt new technologies, or be disrupted.

Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Review Press. Excerpted from Competing in the New World of Work: How Radical Adaptability Separates the Best from the Rest by Keith Ferrazzi, Kian Gohar, and Noel Weyrich. Copyright 2022 Ferrazzi Greenlight Inc. All rights reserved.

You are welcome to leave a comment and share the blog with others.
The book, “Competing in the New World of Work,” is available is here.

Can’t Decide What to Do

Can’t Decide What to Do?string(26) "Can’t Decide What to Do?"

There have been many times in my career where I have struggled with making an important decision.  Do I go left or, do I go right?  Do I say “yes” or, do I say “no?”  I generally tend to look at things logically and try to make good use of the data I have at hand.  But still, there are times that I have continued to be torn about what to do next on some issues.

Over the years, I’ve learned to rely on my intuition when I’m struggling with a particular choice.  To assist with that, I’ve developed two techniques that have helped me make decisions that involve things I’m still unclear about.

Get Out of Your Head

The first one came to me more than twenty years ago.  When my children were young, we were in a Baskin Robbins ice cream store and the kids were completely undecided as to what flavor to get.  We were next in line and there were a lot of people behind us, and I knew that they had to decide soon.  So, I told them all to close their eyes and stick their tongues out and wave it around.  Imagine being in line behind us. There was an adult and three young children standing in a row with their eyes closed and their tongues out waving around in the air.  The other customers must have thought we were crazy.  But interestingly, each one of my children suddenly announced the flavor they wanted.  My hope was that they would get out of their head where all the choices were swirling around in front of them and go with their intuition and choose what their gut was telling them they really wanted. It worked.  They all immediately decided what they wanted (much to the delight of everyone behind us).

Now, full disclosure – when I’m in my office and I can’t make a decision, I do not actually stick my tongue out and wave it around (can you imagine someone walking in my office while I’m doing that?!).  However, I do mentally go there.  Once I have enough information – if I still can’t decide, I sit back and mentally stick my tongue out and wave it around.  That allows me to get in touch with my gut feeling or intuition.  More often than not, I am glad that I did.

The Coin Reaction

Here’s a second technique that I recommend when you can’t decide what to do about something.  Again, get all the information that you can relating to your choices.  Then, grab a coin and assign one choice to heads and another choice to tails.  OK, you’re probably thinking – seriously Ivan, you’re a Ph.D. and you’re going to suggest that I flip a coin?!  Hang on – listen to the rest.  When you flip the coin and get your result, sit back for a moment and check in with that intuition again.  If you feel frustration or dread, that’s the wrong choice.  However, if you feel relief or satisfaction, that’s the choice you should go with regardless of what side the coin landed on. This technique is a way to use something tangible to get in touch with your intuition and cut through the decision-making confusion.

Remember, I still believe you need to look at the data and consider the facts.
I am just suggesting that there are times (and ways) to also take your intuition into consideration.

Your intuition is your inner soul talking to you.  Don’t ignore it, embrace it.

Don’t Show Off, Show Intereststring(31) "Don’t Show Off, Show Interest"

Sometimes at networking events, I observe people engaging in what I call “dueling monologues” which are basically prolonged dueling talks by one person at a time.

I don’t think most people are really interested in participating in this type of conversation. The problem is that a lot of people are winging it when it comes to networking, and they often go straight into sales mode. When they do this with someone who is also winging it, it leads to a dueling monologue syndrome. I’ve seen it many times.

So how do we avoid the dueling monologue syndrome?
I believe the answer is don’t show off, show interest.

The Goal of Networking

What is the goal for your networking efforts? If it is to build your business, then it is all about building relationships with people.

Go to networking events with the intention to build a business relationship. Don’t try to dazzle people with your brilliance. You can certainly do that later. Stand out from the crowd and impress them with your genuine interest in them. Not your interest in selling to them but your genuine interest in them as a person.

A good networker is like a good talk show interviewer. A good interviewer asks the guests questions and gives them time to elaborate and respond. I think a good networker is very similar – they ask questions, then listen and let people talk.

Follow the Conversation to Ask More Questions

Follow the thread of the conversation to the point where you can ask more questions. Your questions should be open-ended, probing, and respectful. These are questions that allow the respondent to really open up and discuss what you’ve asked.

Here are some examples of questions to start with. Don’t ask one question after another in rapid succession. Do ask one or two of these questions at the beginning and then follow the thread of the conversation to ask more.  

  • What do you like best about what you do?
        If their answer is short, ask them Why? Or ask for some examples. 
  • How did you get started in your industry?
        You can ask clarification questions as they start talking

  • What is your target market?
        Ask more questions to be clear about who their best customers are.

  • What is an example of a great client for you?
        You want them to be very specific in describing the example.

  • What are some of the challenges you have in your business?
        This can be your opportunity to find a way to help them, without selling to them.

  • Where else do you network? What other groups do you go to?
        Follow up with: What do you like about those groups?
        This is great information to find out where you are likely to see them again.

Listen for the Need

If you hear them describe a problem or a need of any kind, think about someone in your personal network whom you trust that you can refer them to. Nothing expedites a relationship faster than helping someone you’ve met by referring them to another person – or sometimes even a book, website, or article – that can help them with the challenge. It is very powerful when you can refer people to other content that helps them succeed and goes a long way toward building a mutually beneficial business relationship. 

Many people out there think they know how to network but are really just doing face-to-face cold calling. YOU can be different.  A great networker is fully engaged, asking questions, and actively listening. They make it about the other person rather than about themselves. Remember: Don’t show off, show interest. 

Specialists Get More Referrals

Specialists Get More Referralsstring(30) "Specialists Get More Referrals"

Your business may perform a variety of services or offer a range of products, however, if you want a referral, your description of what you do should be detailed and focused on a single aspect of your business.

Your referral sources will find it much easier to get you an appointment with a prospect if your sales message addresses the prospect’s specific needs. You’re an office-furniture wholesaler? No help. You specialize in custom-designed, made-to-order desks, shelves, in and file cabinets in large lots? Bingo – you got an appointment.

A Broad Net has Big Holes

I know it seems counterintuitive. The reality is that the more specific your description, the more likely you will receive referrals. People tend to say they do everything because they want to throw as broad a net as possible, catching everyone.

The problem with a really broad net is that it has big holes in it. When you say, “I’m a full-service printer; I do everything,” that doesn’t mean anything to your prospects, or to those who refer you to them. What they’re thinking is, I don’t need a full-service job. All I need is a particular kind of print job.

When you tell a referral partner that you’re a full-service provider, they have to mentally sort out all the people they know and cross tabulate what they do against all the things you do. That doesn’t work; people aren’t computers. It takes too much time and effort.

If you say, “Who do you know who’s a sports enthusiast? Here’s how they can use my product,” then you’re letting your referral source do a simpler kind of mental sorting. The more you can educate people about the different things you do–one at a time–the more likely you’ll get referrals in the long run. Getting referrals in a specific area does not preclude continuing to offer other products or services.

Narrowing Your Focus

When you present yourself as an expert in an area where someone needs expert advice, you become a specialist rather than a generalist. As the specialist, you can more thoroughly articulate what you do and how you do it to your referral sources, allowing them to easily present it to other people.

You may not be convinced that narrowing your focus is a good idea. You may think that if you present yourself as a specialist, you limit your potential referrals and future business; that is, you can’t do business outside your niche. The truth is, whether you’re a true specialist, or a generalist presenting yourself as a specialist in order to facilitate easy referrals, you are not limiting yourself by doing so. People are actually more likely to refer a specialist than a generalist.

Most specialists that do only one or a few kinds of business still offer related products or services. Yes, you’ve narrowed down your business to the things you like to do or do best, or bring you the most profit, but you can do other things, too.

Remember, specialists get more referrals. Eventually your referral partners need to know the full range of your products or services. Right now, they need to know the specific needs you can fill, because that’s what the customer focuses on in any given instance.

Be Self-Aware, Be Selfless, and Then be Selfishstring(47) "Be Self-Aware, Be Selfless, and Then be Selfish"

Let’s face it, networking is about…. you. Yet, that’s the problem. Every day, millions of business seekers go to networking events with one thing in mind: themselves. Don’t feel guilty; it’s totally natural. It’s also counterproductive. While you shouldn’t apologize for being a product of your baser (and selfish) instincts, you need to be aware of them when networking for new business.

Does that mean you are destined to be a self-centered, one-way, “What’s in It for Me” sponge? No! Here is some advice on how to manage it: Be Self-Aware, then Selfless, then Selfish.

Be Self-Aware

Never walk into an event or enter into a business relationship without knowing what you want from it. That is not being cold and impersonal. That is being realistic. Although most people think this way, not all will admit it. It is smart business because you need a plan. This is something you need to know before you begin networking.

You really need to think about, and fully understand, what your specific target market actually is. Does the person you’re speaking to in a meeting represent your target market? Do they have the ability to connect with people who can get you to your target market? Understanding yourself and your business, and what you want out of your networking efforts, is critical to being self-aware.

Be Selfless

This is what most of us were taught while growing up. Now that you’ve determined what it will take to grow your business, it’s time to motivate your potential referral sources to think of you when they hear of someone with a need for your products and services. The only way this will happen is if you are genuinely interested in the people you talk to and interact with.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who hung on every word you said while making spectacular eye contact? Then every time you met them later, they did it again. Have you met someone like that? You can be like that, too. Strive to be more interested than interesting as you build business relationships.

Be Selfish

Some people are probably anxious for a couple of reasons. Some people are anxious about time. “I am networking, I want to get business.” Others may feel, “Givers gain. It’s not about being selfish.” A little bit of constructive selfishness is good.

Have you ever given a lot of business to someone and received nothing in return? If you know what you want from that relationship and you have invested social capital into it – you’ve helped them, supported them, been there for them, then examine the reasons why that person is not reciprocating. Perhaps you haven’t taken the time to properly educate them. Do they understand what kind of referrals you would like, of what quality, how many, and how you want to be introduced? Your referral partner may want to help you and they need to know how. So, arrange a time to meet with them and provide them with the information they need to start sending business your way.

There is a rhythm to the relationship process. Ask yourself the question, “Does my business rely on referrals?” If the answer is “yes,” then understand that referrals come from people. Referral marketing, unlike any other form of lead generation, is 100 percent reliant on other people to be successful. So why put forth the effort?  The answer lies in a survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce several years ago. Nationwide, business owners responded that while they closed only 2 percent of cold calls, 75 to 85 percent of referrals resulted in closed business. That makes referrals worth pursuing, worth having a system to go after them, and worth learning how to motivate people to give them to you.

Cultivating referrals takes time, patience, and a commitment to the process.  Are you willing to make that investment in your business relationships? Be Self-Aware – what do you want to get out of your networking efforts? Be Selfless – how do you help others? Be Selfish – it is okay to think about yourself as you are investing in others. It is okay to ask for help to make your networking efforts worthwhile.


For a limited time, ALL of the Misner Audio Programs, including the entire package, are 50% off the regular price with the special code IVAN50.

The MISNER AUDIO PROGRAMS help you learn the essential skills of networking, whether you are a seasoned BNI Member, or a professional who wants to grow your business.

These audios cover a wide variety of topics that can help you refresh and re-energize; get a new perception – be exposed to or reminded of new skills, ideas, and techniques. Did you know that retention is much higher in audio learning than video? These audio programs give you the best of both worlds, convenience, and effectiveness.

New to Business Networking?

If you are just getting started, “How to Build Your Business Through Networking & Word of Mouth” is for you. I believe word of mouth is a basic skill for success in any life. I first introduced this concept to the world through BNI. Now, 36 years later it is still fundamental for building strong interpersonal relationships that are the baseline of successful referrals. Seasoned entrepreneurs and even new graduates appreciate this program and consider it essential listening.

In “Truth or Delusion: Busting the Biggest Myths in Networking”, I talk about my favorite networking myths from my book by the same name. Is your business operating on information that is outdated? Find out this and more as I expand on some of the principles and give new insight to create business success.

For All Business Professionals

“Masters of Success” will help you reach your goals. Whatever your age or stage of life, this audio has important lessons for everyone. It is based on my #1 best-selling book and shares the five themes all successful people have, along with the skills they practice to stay successful.

Entrepreneurs are the everyday leaders who change the way the world does business. Learn what they don’t teach you in college in “Entrepreneurs: Everyday Leaders”. I share what worked for me, along with what didn’t work and why, to help you save years from having to learn this on your own.

Especially for BNI Members

Although each of these audio recordings has helpful information that all businesspeople will find beneficial, they are specifically created to enhance BNI Members’ experience.

In “BNI Networking Secrets” you will understand the impact of the time confidence curve for your business. Learn the difference between networking and selling, find out about the VCP Process®and how to apply it to increase your success, and much more. Get 25+ years of networking experience in less than 3 hours.

When you listen to “The BNI Visitor Experience”, you’ll hear how to apply the VCP Process with chapter visitors so at the end of the BNI meeting they say, “I can’t wait to be part of that!” Learn the specific things you and your chapter can do to make sure every visitor has a great experience EVERY time.

Your Leadership Team can master the effective leadership strategies that are needed to build high-performing BNI Chapters with the information I share in “The Secret to Great Leadership Teams”. Get clarity on what each leadership role is designed to do and identify old habits that may keep your chapter from moving to the next level.

Enjoy a Discount and Benefit the BNI Foundation

For a limited time, ALL of the Misner Audio Programs, including the entire package, are 50% off the regular price with the special code IVAN50. Additionally, I am donating all of the proceeds to the BNI Foundation. You can continue the BNI Core Value of Lifelong Learning with your purchase of these audio programs AND know that you are helping the BNI Foundation’s mission to meet children’s education needs. It’s a WIN-WIN!

Whether you are a current BNI Member and want to brush up on the fundamentals and maximize your experience, or you are a professional thinking about adding networking as an additional aspect of business development, this collection of valuable information will take you to the next level.

Visit to see all seven of the audio programs and the specially priced bundles. Remember that you can save 50% on everything on that website for a limited time with the code IVAN50. It is now easier than ever to access instant audio downloads from wherever you are in the world!

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