Networking Archives - Dr. Ivan Misner®
Networking Quotient

Build Your Referability Degree and Networking Quotient

Today’s guest blog is an extract from the book, “Networking Quotient” by my good friends and BNI® Leaders, Paulo Corsi and YP Lai, about two immensely powerful measurements that determine the ability of your network to generate business for you, your Networking Quotient and your Referability Degree.

As a networker, have you ever asked yourself how effective your network is in bringing business referrals? And have you ever pondered which strategy will bring you better results? Should you expand your network and get to know more people? Should you build a deeper relationship with the people who are already in your network? Well, the secret to getting the answers is being able to measure your network. That sounds simple, right? However, what is the right measurement to use? The size of your network? The depth of your network? Or perhaps something else?

Let me introduce you to two powerful measurements that determine the ability of your network to generate business for you.

Your Referability Degree

The Referability Degree points out how much of your network is working for you. However, it does not tell you if your network has the right size to generate more business opportunities for you.

The Referability Degree is calculated by dividing the number of contacts in your network who have given you a referral in the last six months and dividing this number by the total number of contacts you have. (e.g., 30 people that gave you referrals / 100 people in your network gives you a Referability Degree of 30%).

  • If you have a Referability Degree of 50% or less:

Your focus should be on developing better relationships with the people who do not regularly give you business referrals. Through nurturing the relationship, you will teach them how to generate referrals for you. At the same time, you will be learning ways on how to create value and bring referrals for the other person and develop a long-term mutually beneficial relationship.

  • When your Referability Degree is above 50%:

You are ready to expand your network. As you expand your network, you should simultaneously strengthen the relationship so that both parties can bring good quality business referrals for each other.

Imagine a person that has a Referability Degree of 90% – which is exceedingly high. However, the size of the network is only 10 people. This indicates that he has deep relationships with his existing contacts but has only an extremely limited network. In this scenario, he must expand his network to more people. A network of 10 people will not be sufficient to create a constant flow of opportunities for him.

Your Networking Quotient

The Networking Quotient is simply the number of people that have given business referrals to you in the past 6 months.

For a continual flow of business by referrals, it is recommended to have a Networking Quotient of at least 100. This means having an active community of at least 100 people that you are constantly in contact with, build rapport with and know how to bring you good quality referrals. Building up your Networking Quotient takes time, and with constant practice, it will become your daily habit.

“Networking Quotient”

Networking Quotient  Paulo Corsi and YP Lai in their book, “Networking Quotient”, share in detail how to calculate the Referability Degree and the Networking Quotient. And more importantly, they share proven strategies to build your Referability Degree and your Networking Quotient.

The eBook / Kindle version of “Networking Quotient” is on sale for $1.99 until 11 pm (PDT) TONIGHT – April 1st, 2021.

 Download the eBook version of “Networking Quotient” today.

 

“Work Less Earn More”

Work Less Earn More

Accompanying the Networking Quotient book, YP Lai has written another book, “Work Less Earn More” about the 10 proven strategies to be wealthier, healthier & happier.

This book acts as a guide for busy entrepreneurs to get their lives into harmony, ensuring that while they are in pursuit of material wealth to provide for the family, they also focus on other important things in life like health, fitness, and happiness.

The eBook / Kindle version of “Work Less, Earn More” is on sale for 99¢ on Amazon until 11 pm (PDT) on April 2nd, 2021.

Download the eBook version of “Work Less Earn More” today.

cannot remember

I’m sorry, I cannot remember your name

What do you do when you meet someone and you cannot remember their name? That can be embarrassing. I have observed this many times over the years during networking events. I have also observed the different ways others have dealt with forgetting someone’s name. Some have just faked it by engaging in a conversation hoping to get a clue. They try to remember where the other person was from or how they knew them. On the other hand, I have heard people come right out and say, “Hey, I’m sorry I forgot your name” or “I’m sorry I do not remember where you’re from”.

In this video, I share a story from one of my blog readers which describes a scenario of this very nature and I answer his question of what I would have done if I were in the same sticky situation.

What not to do when you cannot remember a name

If it happens to you, I recommend that you do not say, “I’m sorry, I forgot your name” or “I don’t remember where you’re from”. I have found that people sometimes take it personally that you can’t remember them. No reason to embarrass yourself and embarrass them because you don’t know who they are. They might begin to avoid you because you did not recognize them earlier.

Finally, you do not want to say, “Nice to meet you”. Even if you do not remember meeting the person, they clearly know you, so you are most likely not “meeting them” for the first time.

What to do instead

When you forget someone’s name, I recommend saying, “Hi, good to see you”, then strike up a simple conversation to help you remember based upon the current situation or event you are attending. Starting a dialogue is a great way to shake up the gray matter in your head to try to remember who they are. If you still cannot remember after conversing a while, it’s time to stop trying and move along. Before leaving tell them, “Hey, it was nice to see you again. Gotta run. Talk to you again next time”.

It can be challenging to remember names, especially if you’re an avid networker. Years ago, I was told about a four-step process that will help you to remember people’s names–and it actually works!

OK, not remembering someone’s name has happened to me too. Saying “good to see you”, then engaging in a dialogue is a great approach to remember their name. If you absolutely do not want to use this technique, a fall-back approach can be one that someone once shared with me: “Sorry, I’m having a total ‘Senior Moment’ and I don’t recall where we’ve met”. Feel free to use that if you do not feel very brave with the “good to see you” approach. However, be prepared for some bruised feelings.

If you’ve ever been approached by someone and drawn a complete blank trying to remember their name, or even where you know them from, you know how awkward and embarrassing that situation can be. Finally, always wear your name badge when networking in person so that the people you meet can easily remember your name.

extroverts

Both Extroverts and Introverts Are Great Networkers

A common myth is that only extroverts are the best networkers. It is a fact that extroverted people are better at meeting new people. Even if they are not outgoing, introverted people are better at communicating ideas and forming meaningful relationships with referral marketing. Therefore, introverts are great networkers too.

Networking is a two-part process for both extroverts and introverts

First, you have to meet someone new and share information about yourself. Extroverts may be better at this first part of the networking process. While introverted people tend to avoid networking because they are uncomfortable initializing conversations with strangers.

Introverts are better at the second part of the networking process. Introverted people are better at building strong relationships with the people they know. Introverts are better listeners and ask more questions to understand the person’s business. Networking is about building relationships.

A good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses each proportionally

  1. Become an ambassador

If you feel uncomfortable approaching strangers at a business mixer, become an ambassador for your chamber of commerce or other organization. In this role, you become a host for the group. Therefore, you easily meet new people by engaging in small talk to break the ice when you greet people and say, “Welcome to our event. My name is [your name]. I’m an ambassador for the chamber and the owner of…”.

      2. Become a volunteer

Are you a volunteer for a cause you feel passionate about? You can give your time at an event, share your talents with the organization, or help solicit donations. Then you will start off talking to others about the cause and soon you are networking. Giving your time, talent or treasure can be effective opportunities for meeting new people. Many of these people could become your future clients.

       3. Become an influencer

Another way to break the ice is by speaking formally to a group about a specific topic. People have become great networkers by joining a parent-teacher association or coaching in their children’s sports league. There are opportunities to speak on behalf of the children. Even an introvert can muster up some charisma and get in front of a crowd. Becoming a public speaker helped me.

Networking is a skill that can be learned no matter your level of gregariousness. If you are uncomfortable when networking, take advantage of training seminars and workshops that teach you how to network effectively. Plus, you can take steps to interact with people in other ways to help break the ice. In conclusion, you will find that when you learn ways to handle these situations, you will become more relaxed and confident in a networking setting.

Quality Relationships

Building Quality Relationships

Years ago, I learned that there is a correlation between the number of quality relationships and the number of referrals generated in a strong networking group. If you have a networking group of 16 members, that group has 120 relationships among all the members. However, a networking group of 32 members has 496 relationships among the members. Doubling the size of a networking group from 16 to 32 members has over four times the number of relationships. See the above graphic for an example of these relationships as chords of a circle. This video further explains this concept.

The Number of Quality Relationships Generated by the Members of a Strong Network

The number of relationships grows exponentially as the size of the group gets larger.  For example, if your networking group has 50 members, that networking group has 1225 relationships among the members. We have a few BNI chapters with 100 members. Therefore, they have 4950 quality relationships among their members. However, it is not the QUANTITY of members in your networking group that is important. What is important is the QUALITY of the relationships that you have with the members of your strong network. Growing more quality relationships in your networking group will increase the number of referrals generated by your members.

The formula: Number of Relationships = 0.5 x [(Number of members) x (Number of members – 1)] 

Quantity is good, but quality truly is king

The bottom line is that the more connections you have, (based on quality relationships of course), the more referrals you generate.  Grow your business by growing a strong network of quality relationships. For decades, I have seen groups that are twice the size of other groups in an area generate several times more referrals than their smaller counterparts.  The math is pretty significant and consistent. If you know your connections well enough to be able to call and ask for a favor–and get it–that is a powerful network.

Effective networking is about building strong relationships. If you approach the first months or year of your involvement in a networking group with the sole motivation of building relationships first by getting to know the other members well, you will be far ahead of the game. One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that it is not really what you know or who you know. It’s how well you know them that really counts. People do business with people they know and trust. The more relationships you build with your members, the more referrals you can give to your members, and the more referrals you will receive from them.

Body Language

The Four Body Language Factors When Networking

You could be unknowingly undermining your networking efforts through your body language. Body language can be extremely powerful when it comes to networking and building relationships with others. Within the first seven seconds of meeting you, people check you out visually. Therefore, it is important to know the four key body language factors to help you present yourself in the best way possible when networking.

Networking Body Language Factors

1. Eye contact. 

Are you making good eye contact throughout the conversation? Some of the most successful business leaders in the world are known for the impressions they make with their eye contact. Their gaze never wavers from the eyes of the person they are speaking with, making them feel as if they are the most important person in the room. They are not looking behind the person to whom they are speaking to see who else is in the room. With a little practice, anyone can do this.

2. Arm movement.

Everyone “talks” with their hands.  A good networker uses gestures that match their message well. However, poor networkers tend to make distracting gestures. It is important to pay attention to your hand gestures while you are networking. If you are speaking to someone and your arms are folded together, this gives the impression that you are not interested and bored with their conversation. Therefore, to give off a positive impression when networking, your arms should be tucked behind your back, indicating interest in the conversation.

3. Your stance.

Are you leaning on something, as if bored or tired? Make an effort to stand in a manner that is open and welcoming, rather than blocking people out of your conversation. Standing with your legs shoulder-width apart signals determination. However, shifting your weight from one foot to the other or rocking forward indicates that you are anxious or upset. Finally, we all tend to lean toward people we like and pull away from those we do not.

4. Facial expressions.

Your networking success rides on how you come across in that first encounter. You want people to perceive you as alert, interested, knowledgeable, and trustworthy. Every facial expression you make tells a story. Are you smiling and showing interest in the conversation? Yawning while someone is talking to you is a surefire way to shut them down immediately. I have seen this happen more times than I can count while observing conversations at networking events.

Two steps to ensure that you are making a positive impression:

  1. Look in the mirror before leaving the house and ask yourself: “What message am I sending to people meeting me for the first time? What opinions will they have of me before I even open my mouth?”
  2. Become more aware of your body language by getting feedback. What are you saying without speaking a word? Before you host your own event, take a trusted friend with you to a networking function and ask them to give you honest, direct feedback on your body language. Provide them with a small checklist of the four factors discussed above and be prepared for their honest insights.

If you are networking with new prospects, make sure that your body language is not discouraging people from approaching you.

hate

If You Hate Networking – Know This

The majority of businesspeople like to network as a powerful way to generate business. Therefore, if you hate networking, watch my doodle video.

People Hate to Network… Not!

Networking involves building a strong relationship. Furthermore, networking is not like “cold-calling”. Instead, it is a conversation with someone to build a relationship with them.

According to the research I did years ago for the book: Business Networking And Sex (not what you think)

  • 57% of the respondents were comfortable or loved networking
  • 37% of the respondents were somewhat comfortable networking
  • 6% of the respondents were uncomfortable or did not like networking

Why are the 6% of business people not networking as a way to grow their business? There are four reasons why people resist networking:

  • Frozen by their fear
  • Too busy at work
  • They are “hunting” for business
  • Not good listeners

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

Networking is the process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence, or serve the community. It is a lot more interesting than cold-calling.

resist networking

Why People Resist Networking

Every year, people continue to resist networking even though successful people have used networking to grow their businesses. Networking provides a great return for a much smaller monetary investment as compared to the cost of traditional advertising. Why are so many business owners still not networking as a way to grow their business?

The four reasons why people resist networking

  • They are frozen by their fear

Having a fear of rejection keeps people from networking. The fear of interacting with strangers is paralyzing. Having low self-confidence, shyness, or an under-estimation of what they can contribute are reasons why they resist networking. Giving in to these fears is just plain bad for business.

  • They are too busy

Not having time to network is another excuse many people use as to why they are not networking. People believe that they are too busy already. They think that it is not worth the time or stress it takes to network. They resist networking because they believe that their current time obligations are more important. Being “too busy” is an excuse when people are not clear on their networking goals.

  • They are “hunting”

People resist networking because they expect immediate results. They are impatient and don’t understand the value of taking the time to build strong relationships first. “Hunters” want a quick sale as opposed to following up and establishing credibility over time with others. They do not follow up with the people they connect with and get no results.

  • They are talking more

People often resist networking because they pitch their sale in a room full of competition. I was at a big networking event with more than 500 people in the UK one year, and the person who spoke before me asked the audience: “How many of you came here hoping to do some business–maybe make a sale?”  More than half the people in the audience raised their hands. He then asked, “How many of you are here hoping to buy something?” No one raised a hand–not one single person! This is the networking disconnect and they are not listening.

The four reasons why successful people network

  • They are focused by their fear

Successful people are not blocked by fear. They are focused on meeting others when networking. Not only are they building their business visibility, but successful networkers also have a good time building new relationships with others.

  • They value their networking time

Successful people have clear networking goals. They know what they want to gain with their networking time. Successful networkers have learned that breaking out of their routine is an enriching experience. They have found ways to incorporate networking into their schedule.

  • They are “farming”

Networking is not a “get-rich-quick” scheme. Successful networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. We have to cultivate good relationships that pay us back over the long term, year after year. Networking works by building credibility with strong relationships.

  • They are listening more

Networking is not like “cold-calling.” It is not something you do to someone. It is something you do with them. Networking is a conversation. It involves more listening. Don’t forget that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and should use both of them proportionately.

Networking involves building a strong relationship. The first of the three phases of networking is visibility. You and other individuals become aware of each other. When networking, you become genuinely interested in the other person as you get to know each other. This interest in each other leads to credibility with each other. This credibility will build and will create opportunities over time to provide referrals. Those referrals will ultimately lead to profitability resulting from your networking efforts.

World of Thanks

A World of Thanks

Welcome to the 14th annual “International Networking Week®”. Held annually during the first week of February, organizations around the world celebrate the power of networking and recognition. “International Networking Week” is an initiative of BNI created 14 years ago. This week, we are promoting our theme, “A World of Thanks”, by asking you to share your stories of gratitude and appreciation for those who helped you to grow or maintain your business during the difficulties of the “Great Pause of 2020”.

Welcome to “International Networking Week”

Please share this video with your chapter members this week during your BNI meeting.

This is the perfect time to recognize someone and say “thank you” in appreciation for what they have contributed to your life and your business. Thank someone in person (or online) during your BNI meeting this week or at any networking event celebrating “International Networking Week”. Furthermore, consider posting a thank you message on social media using the hashtags #aWorldofThanks and #INW2021 with your post.

Video Contest Winner

Thank you to all that submitted your video entry for this contest. I am honored to announce that Paul Richardson of the BNI Crossroads Chapter is the winner of the 2021 “International Networking Week” Video Contest. Please take a moment and click here to watch this award-winning video of Paul thanking fellow BNI member Caroline Matte of the BNI Champlain Valley Chapter who made a difference in his life.  Paul will have his business, and his BNI chapter in Vermont, USA, featured globally on BNI’s social media pages and featured in SuccessNet™ this week.

A World of Thanks

In conclusion, I would like to end by thanking the following BNI leaders for writing guest blogs during International Networking Week for my website:

 Wishing everyone a fantastic International Networking Week® 2021!

 

Zoom

The 12x12x12 Zoom Rule

What is the 12x12x12 Zoom rule? In 2010, I introduced the original 12x12x12 rule when attending in-person networking events in my book, “Networking Like a Pro”. Ten years later, with all of us using our computers for online networking, I adapted the 12x12x12 rule in 2020 for Zoom.

What do you look like 12 feet around you?

Since everyone is broadcasting from home these days, it is important to pay attention to the setting of your personal meeting location. Make sure what people will see behind you is as professional as possible. Remove the visible clutter around you and close the door to keep your kids, or cats, from interrupting the call. If you are using a virtual background, choose something related to your industry. However, keep the background photo professional, like bookshelves or an office setting. Do not use a tropical beach background, unless you work on a beach or as a travel agent. Remember, your background says a lot about you. Hang a solid-colored green sheet behind you as an easy green screen when using a virtual Zoom background.

What do you look like 12 inches away from your web camera?

Have you dressed appropriately for the meeting? I mean, are you FULLY DRESSED for the meeting with both a professional top and bottom? Too many stories have been shared on the TV news about people getting up from their chairs and being caught in pajama pants, athletic shorts, or unfortunately even less. I’ve been known to wear sweat pants on camera but never wear something (or not wear enough) that would end up with you on the TV news. Make sure your hair is combed and you are not eating on camera. Plus, be prepared with a pen and notepad to take notes.

What are the first 12 words out of your mouth on Zoom?

This is the most important point. Have you thought about what you are going to say to someone else at a networking event? The worst time to think about what you want to say is when you are saying it. Think about concise ways you can get your points across: what you want to say about your business, your target market, the benefits of your product or service, etc. Finally, use a microphone so that everyone can clearly hear you

Before you log in to your next online networking event or Zoom meeting, remember these tips, and verify that you are following the 12x12x12 Zoom rule. 

Ice Breaker

Small Talk: The Mighty Ice Breaker

One of the most important aspects of networking is the small talk that occurs at networking functions. The small talk acts as an ice breaker to open up the initial conversation between strangers. This initial conversation is important. It is the first opportunity to grow a mutual connection that may lead to future referrals.

Locubrevisphobia

This big word is the fear of making small talk, often resulting in the sufferer avoiding social and networking events. Many people simply dread the thought of having to carry on conversations with people they do not know. It is easy to label these people as shy. However, only a small minority of people are too shy to enjoy talking with others. Most people are not afraid to talk; they are just intimidated by the task of finding something to talk about.

For this reason, business owners need to stay on top of pop culture and current events. The latest issues and stories in the news are great ways to break the ice and help you find common ground with a person you may never have met before and with whom you may not have much in common. But with the media explosion, it’s increasingly difficult to have a firm grasp on water-cooler talk, particularly when it comes to conversations with people in different age brackets. So, how do you start — and maintain — a conversation at a networking or other event with someone you don’t know at all?

Just ask questions as an ice breaker

This sounds simple because it is. A great way to get people to talk is to ask a few “feeder” questions that will help you learn what the other person is interested in. Simply hone in on that subject. You don’t have to know anything about the topic to converse about the topic. You just have to know enough to ask the questions.

It’s easier you think. Online news sites have set up their pages with easy-to-read convenient categories, such as Top News, Sports, Entertainment, and Tech. Either at night or first thing in the morning, just take a few minutes to read the headlines, and maybe the first one to two sentences. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about “what’s hot” from just a cursory glance. You have enough information to start asking questions and conversing with someone new.

Make the other person feel like an expert

I still remember when I realized the value of asking questions and letting someone answer them. I was flying for business, and just before taking off, I struck up a conversation with the person seated next to me. I’m not sure what started the conversation, but I wasn’t familiar with the business he was in, and I asked a question. That question led to another, then another until the end of that two-hour flight. I realized that he had “small talked” during the entire flight. We made a good connection, I had learned something new, and, as we were gathering our belongings, he complimented me for being a good conversationalist.

A savvy networker, Susan RoAne, reads the sports section in her newspaper from cover to cover every single day, even though she has zero interest in sports. “Why on earth would you subject yourself to this?” I asked her, as I am admittedly not a sports fan, either. She replied, “My networking functions are primarily attended by men. I don’t want to stay on the sidelines while important conversations are going on, conversations that invariably start with a discussion about last night’s game.”

Take a few minutes each day to browse enough headlines to arm you with enough knowledge of current events, pop culture — and yes, even sports. Use this knowledge as an ice breaker to ask questions and get conversations flowing. Using small talk is simply a good networking strategy. As a bonus, you’ll learn a lot from these conversations you might never have learned otherwise.

elephant

How to Network with the Elephant in the Room

Experienced networkers understand that networking is not always a perfect 100% satisfaction guaranteed activity. A member can sometimes have a problem with another person in their networking group. However, instead of talking with this person to resolve the problem, the member avoids this person due to their personal discomfort, and the unresolved problem can grow into a larger situation. Now, the situation has created “the elephant in the room”, which could cause drama within the networking group.

Drama can occur in any group where wide varieties of people and personalities interact. This is also true in business networking groups that meet weekly for in-person or online meetings. If the physical avoidance between these two members is obvious to others at the networking meeting, the negativity from the situation could be felt by others in the group as “the elephant in the room”, potentially causing drama within the group.

What is “the elephant in the room”?

The elephant in the roomis defined as “a metaphorical idiom for an enormous topic or controversial issue that is obvious or that everyone knows about but no one mentions or wants to discuss because it makes at least some of them uncomfortable”. The member, due to discomfort, ignored the initial problem with the other person and avoided them during the group meetings. Therefore, the unresolved problem grew into a larger situation that became very obvious to the other members of the networking group. The initial problem between these two members evolved into “the elephant in the room” for the entire networking group. So, how do you tame and remove the elephant? Here are three of the most common situations why a networking group might have “the elephant in the room” and my suggestions for gracefully taming each of them:

Elephant #1: Poor Referrals

The reason for joining a networking group is to build strong relationships with the members to refer business to one another. Normally, this is a win-win for the member receiving the referral because their business grows with a new client, as well as a win for the member who gave the referral because of Givers Gain®. However, a small percentage of referrals may be poor referrals. They take up time but do not result in closed business. When something goes wrong and a member receives a poor referral, this can create the first elephant.

People who are experiencing a problem with a fellow member tend to talk about the problem to other members instead of talking directly with the fellow member that they are experiencing the problem with. This can actually make the problem worse.

Talk with the member giving you poor referrals.

In most of these situations, nothing was wrong with the actual referral. Usually, the problem was simply caused by miscommunication. Do not perpetuate problems by avoiding open, honest communication with others. Take the time to talk about it in a non-confrontational way. Talking right away will avoid making these awkward situations even worse.

Elephant #2: Personal Disagreements

Networking would be so much easier if people were not involved. Although networking is all about building relationships with people, personal disagreements are inevitable and problems occur. Avoiding each other due to discomfort and not talking with each other to resolve the disagreement creates the second elephant.

Focus on the solution rather than on the problem.

If you only focus on the problem, you become an expert on the problem. All too often, when facing a problem, the first thing we tend to do is focus on the negative situation. This tends to move us further from finding a way to fix it and that does not help the problem.

You must begin to start focusing on ways to resolve the situation by focusing on solutions. Rather than react, take the time to fully analyze the problem then make a list of possible solutions. When we think of ways to overcome our problems, we are prepared for the next problem down the road. Often, all that is needed is honest and direct communication between the two members to solve the disagreement.

Elephant #3: Breakups Between Members

Networking groups tend to attract like-minded people. Sometimes they bring two of their members together for more than just business. Over the years, I have known many couples that dated, fell in love, got married, and started a family together all because they first met at their networking group. On the other hand, this can quickly create the third elephant if the relationship ends badly and the two members remain in the same group after the messy breakup.

Take the higher ground and continue to network.

Given the value of your network, it is worth working through those feelings if you find yourself in a breakup with another member of your networking group. Do not lose your network of valuable referral sources you have built. The more professional you remain following the breakup, the higher your regard will be by your group. Therefore, remember not to talk badly about the other person or discuss the breakup situation with other members of the group.

Whatever the reason, many people involved in business networking may one day face a situation with “the elephant in the room”. Remember not to focus on growing the problem but on growing your business. Do not burn bridges with people in your group by avoiding them or the uncomfortable situation. Instead, talk to them about your concerns. You never know what the future will bring. You might end up being friends and valued referral partners with the former elephant.

definition of networking

My New Definition of Networking

One word that has had multiple definitions over the years concerning business growth is networking. For some business owners, networking was defined as compiling a huge database of names, usually by collecting business cards. Other entrepreneurs defined networking as the opportunity to meet people and personally prospect for business. Still, other businesspeople defined networking as nothing more than schmoozing and boozing, with no specific intention except to be seen and socialize. Therefore, I needed to consolidate these various thoughts on the definition of networking based on my experiences into one definition of networking:

“The process of developing and using your contacts to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence, or serve your community”

This definition stood the test of time for many years. However, times have changed. During the past nine months, business people have survived the most challenging economic time since the Great Depression. I realize that my definition of networking needs to evolve to reflect our changing times and business climate. There are some truths to retain from my original definition of networking. However, a few concepts need updating.

“Using” updates to “Activates”

The word “using” sounds rather harsh with the negative concept of “using” someone for something. However, when one “activates” others, the engagement becomes interactive and inspiring to take action together. The word “using” implies an action like a one-way street, while the word “activating” implies an interaction like a major two-way highway.

In these changing times, we need to be more inspiring and engaging when networking. Entrepreneurs who “activate” their network have higher networking results than those that are “using” someone.

“Contacts” updates to “Relationships”

The word “contacts” is an impersonal term for the names in one’s database. However, we cultivate genuine and authentic positive “relationships” with the people we feel are important to include in our network. Our “relationships” are something that we build together over time.

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

Includes “Online Networking”

In 2013, I wrote a blog about the beginning of online networking and recommended the importance of integrating this type of networking into your overall referral marketing strategy. I did not predict back then that seven years later the business world would be experiencing “The Great Pause” and we would all be working from home.

In 2020, in-person “face-to-face” networking came to a halt because of the current health situation. Many governments banned indoor group events. Even if you cannot go to your usual places to network face-to-face with others at mixers, meetings, or social events, you can still take action and build up your networking online.

Online networking provides many ways to connect with others, even if not face-to-face. In BNI, back in March 2020, we switched all 9,500 of our BNI chapters from weekly in-person meetings to online Zoom meetings as we embraced online networking. The goal is still the same as with in-person networking.  We focus on developing strong relationships with others and activate them to inspire others to support our businesses.

Online networking works! Our BNI members have already helped their fellow BNI members generate over $11.7 billion US dollars in revenue so far in 2020, resulting from over 8.6 million referrals exchanged. Therefore, amid these challenging times, referrals generated from online networking are helping many businesses stay open.

My new definition of networking is “The process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence, or serve the community”.

The changes may seem small, yet they are significant. I needed to modify my definition of networking with these updates. I believe this is a better representation of the concept of networking these days. Successful networking is about helping others as a way of growing your business. The people you help are more willing to help you or connect you to the people they know. Through networking, you can build a referral-based business by activating your relationships either online or in-person.

By simply changing a few words in my original definition of networking, I created what I believe is the true meaning of effective networking. My revised definition of networking is congruent with my style of networking. The same style of networking that BNI teaches our members every day. We know after 36 years of changing people’s lives that networking works. Your local BNI community can give you, and the people that you know, the support you need to thrive. Today, more than ever, you need to be networking. Today, more than ever, you need BNI.

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