Networking Archives - Dr. Ivan Misner®
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.

networking benefits

The Networking Benefits

Networking benefits outweigh the perceived obstacles. These obstacles include the time away from the office to the cost to join the networking group. However, the networking benefits far exceed these concerns. The biggest benefit of networking is building strong relationships with others. The more solid relationships you build, the more credible you become. The more your credibility grows, the more people will hire and recommend you. Therefore, there are networking benefits that affect your finances, customer spending, and the impression of the quality of your business.

The Financial Networking Benefits

Before looking at the financial networking benefits there are both soft- and hard-money costs to consider. “Hard money” includes credit cards, cash, checks, and other possessions with monetary value. The term “soft money” is used to assign value to services or the invested time you spend on your business, otherwise known as sweat equity.

The time investment in business networking also builds social capital. Businesses develop and maintain solid, professional relationships through successful networking which create the value behind social contacts. The value of your invested time – “soft money” – is actually greater than the value of your “hard money” spent. Calculate the value of soft-money investments in networking and building relationships. You will be surprised at the financial value you have delivered to your business.

Networking Benefits Include These Positive Wealth Effects

  • Added sales volume
  • Higher average transaction amount per sale
  • Greater closing ratio
  • Referrals tend to be very qualified professionals
  • Higher occurrences of leads and referrals
  • More repeat business
  • Greater positive word-of-mouth marketing benefits
  • More customer loyalty
  • Stronger community recognition
  • Greater perceived value

The Networking Benefits on the Impression of Quality

The impression of the quality of your business is powerful. Consumers are willing to pay more for services and products that they equate to be of higher quality. The impression people have about the quality of your business is enhanced through networking.

Networking allows others to share testimonials about your business and to say good things about you. They help to convey the image of quality for your business. Networking allows others to say things about you that may be considered bragging if you said them. Imagine how powerful it is when your fellow networkers believe in you, they cannot stop talking about you with people they know. Your name is passed along with more and more frequency and confidence.

Your networking efforts are rewarded in many ways. After you have repeatedly established proof of quality, you will be referred to in such a manner that will greatly enhance your customer spending, and positively affect your finances. In conclusion, these networking benefits greatly outweigh the perceived obstacles.

Request an Introduction

Request an Introduction to Meet a Big Name

If you do not know someone personally and want to reach them, I would not contact them directly. Instead, I would find someone that knows them and I would request an introduction. When you request an introduction to someone well-known or very successful from a trusted third party, it smooths the path to meeting them as you network up.

That is exactly how I met Harvey Mackay, author of “Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive”. Back in the ’90s, I had not published any best-selling books yet, so very few people knew who I was. Still, I wanted to meet Mr. Mackay to ask him if he would write a section of my upcoming book. I thought he would make a good contributor as he had written about networking before. No matter how many times I tried, I could not get past his assistant without name recognition.

A well-connected driver

I started asking everyone I knew if they knew anyone who might have a connection to Mr. Mackay personally. A year later, I was on a book tour in another state. A BNI member in that city picked me up at the airport. While on the one hour drive to the hotel, he asked me many questions about my book. He attended the book tour event that week and asked if I would like a ride back to the airport the next day. I agreed. On the ride to the airport, he thanked me for all the suggestions I had shared on how to build a powerful personal network. Then he asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?” 

So, I said to him, “I’ve been trying to connect with Harvey Mackay. I have not had any luck getting past his assistant. You wouldn’t happen to know someone that knows Harvey, would you?” He said, “Sure, I know his assistant pretty well. In fact, I have her mobile number”. He went on to explain that he always volunteers to drive visiting authors from the airport because he learns from them during the hour drive. That is why he volunteered to drive me.

Request an Introduction to a gatekeeper

He knows Mr. Mackay’s assistant because he talked to her many times the previous year when he volunteered to drive Harvey Mackay to/from the airport. He wanted to know why to qualify me before he passed it on to his trusted contact. I told him, “I wanted to ask Mackay if he would be willing to contribute to a book I was writing called “Masters of Networking”. Mackay had written a book on networking and I knew he would be a great contributor”. The driver said he would be happy to reach out to Mackay’s assistant and request an introduction to him.

Introduced to Harvey Mackay

Guess who called me the next week? Not the assistant, but Harvey Mackay himself. Mackay is an icon in the business world. I was honored to have a fantastic conversation with him. I learned that he absolutely “walks the talk” when it comes to networking. He took the time to learn about me and my book. My luck changed when he agreed to write a contribution to my book. Over the years, we have talked together on many occasions. He was even a keynote speaker at one of our BNI conventions. We have strengthened our relationship and I consider Harvey a good friend.

I was able to request an introduction to Harvey Mackay because I asked people who I knew and who I believe trusted me. I would ask people who trusted me for the referral. They knew I would not betray their trust. People do not want to give a referral to someone who just wants to sell something to their contacts. It still works for me today.

Networking Opportunities

Identify the Networking Opportunities To Reach Your Target Market

Successful networkers identify the types of business people who make up their target market and participate in the different types of networking opportunities to reach those prospects. However, successful networking does not mean running all over town connecting with anyone who happens to be in the room. I would not recommend mass networking as it is an exhausting way to acquire new customers.

Identify the strengths you have as a business professional

Building your business is more about leveraging your strengths to meet your prospects’ needs and then networking with as many of those people as you can. What are the strengths and skills that you offer as a business professional for your target market?

  • Are you a “people person”?
  • Do you enjoy public speaking?
  • What did you do professionally before starting your business?
  • How long have you lived in the area where you do business?
  • What skills do you possess beyond your business expertise, such as managing time well, staying organized, and keeping clients focused?

Identify Your Target Market

If you do not know who is your target market, how can you effectively hit your mark? Focus on who you want to be connected to and why. That might mean seeking connections from your friends and family members. It might also mean attending online networking opportunities within a 50-mile radius of your office.

Identify The Networking Opportunities To Reach Your Target Market

If you are an extroverted consultant who worked for a big insurance company before starting your own business, then insurance firms and their agents could be a logical target market. They would value your expertise and experience, and you would be able to talk in a language they understood. Furthermore, you will probably have great success in closing the deal with these prospects. Therefore, a good place to network with them would be through an insurance trade association that meets in your area. Your target audience would likely show up there in force.

If you are a people person who dabbles in public speaking. Your networking strategy should include delivering presentations at your local chamber of commerce. That is a great way to promote yourself and meet a lot of small-business owners at once.

Networking On Fire

Is Your Networking On Fire, On Hold, or In a Hole?

Businesses and entrepreneurs have quickly adapted to digital networking. Instead of meeting people at in-person events or venues, entrepreneurs are now meeting people online. However, for many entrepreneurs, transitioning from face-to-face interactions to digital networking is not easy to accomplish. Therefore, business owners need to determine their current level of networking.  Are you networking on fire, on hold, or in a hole?

Networking on Fire

These networkers are energized, goal-oriented, and thriving. They’re generating a lot of referrals with a high value. Instead of wasting their time at home, they are using their time during this ‘great pause” to educate themselves by either reading books or attending webinars. If you are networking on fire, you are participating weekly in your online networking group meetings. Finally, you are reaching out to your contacts and are conducting effective one-to-ones with others.

Networking on Hold

These networkers are still operating their businesses, but they are just going through the motions with their current clients. They do the minimum and get average results. Instead of growing their business, they are letting it slide. If you became complacent and started to slide in your networking, you are networking on hold. Finally, they might attend their weekly networking meetings, but they do not reach out to schedule one-to-ones with others.

Networking in a Hole

These networkers are struggling with networking. Actually, they are not networking much at all. Instead, these entrepreneurs act like ostriches that bury their heads in the sand when scared. They are hoping that simply denying the existence of a problem will make it go away and everything will be back to normal soon. They are actually losing business because they have difficulty retaining their clients. If you are ignoring opportunities to network with others, you are networking in a hole. Finally, the belief that ostriches bury their heads in the sand to avoid predators is nothing more than a myth.

Where does your networking stand right now?

If your networking is on fire, congratulations. You are refusing to participate in the recession by building your business and by supporting others when you find referrals for those people you meet during your one-to-ones.

If your networking is on hold, it’s not that hard to transition to being on fire. Break out of your shell which is holding you back. Take time to meet others online, schedule your one-to-ones, and attend online events like the one I will be hosting September 15 to 17: “Restart the World”.

If your networking is in a hole, you need to decide if you want help to get out of the hole. I have learned that I can’t help the ones that think the “hole” is the natural state of things. I call this condition the “I HIT HIDWAL” syndrome. (I’m Happy In This Hole and I Don’t Want A Ladder) I can, however, help the ones who recognize their condition and know they want out. More importantly, they not only want out of the hole they are currently in, but they will do just about whatever it takes to get themselves out of that hole! We can only help those who are ready and willing to be helped.

The key to networking improvement is recognizing where you are with your networking. Determine if your current networking is on fire, on hold, or in a hole. Then, decide what steps you will take to improve with the right combination of passion, structure, and accountability. So today, light a spark, fan the flames, and get your networking on fire.

Intentional About Diversity

Being Intentional About Diversity

Being Intentional About Diversity was written with my co-author of Networking Like a ProBrian Hilliard.

With everything going on in the world today, we thought it would be a good time to take a step back and talk about diversity, and more specifically, about diversifying your business network. Developing a truly diverse network is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. Because let’s be honest, different people bring different things to the table in terms of who they know and how they might be able to refer or otherwise assist your business.

As we said in our book, Networking Like a Pro, networks are by nature, clumpy. Human beings have a tendency to congregate and surround ourselves with people who are similar to us. . . whether by race, gender, religion, or professional status. Unfortunately, this approach to networking has unintended consequence – namely, that we tend to form clusters. This is why it is so incredibly important to be intentional about the way we develop our personal network. A diverse personal network enables you to increase the possibility of including connectors to your network. These are people who cross over in some way between two or more groups of people. The best way to increase the number of possible connections in your network is to intentionally develop a diverse, heterogeneous network that has connections to other clusters of people.

If you go with the premise that relationships are the currency of today’s modern business person, then it stands to reason that having an ethnically diverse business network – comprised of people who look different than you – actually is the next logical step when it comes to building a thriving referral-based business.

But for a lot of people, especially those in the majority, the question becomes how.

In other words, how as a white businessman (or woman), can I diversify my network and get to know more business people in the African American, Asian or Latino communities?

That’s a great question and one that, at first glance, can seem daunting to say the least.

But as with most seemingly complicated questions, the answer is quite simple: Be more intentional about it.

In other words, as a member of any ethnic group, the tendency is to spend time around more people like yourself. So whatever ethnicity I am, I’m more likely to have friends and business contacts of that ethnicity. And while that’s understandable, we feel that entrepreneurs who diversify their networks – based on ethnicity, gender and a host of other factors – are actually better positioned to be more successful.

As a matter of fact, McKinsey & Company did a report in 2015 (“Diversity Matters”) which determined that companies having a high racial and ethnic diversity are actually 35% more likely to perform above their industry’s national median return.

So the question becomes what can we do to branch out and overcome the gravitational pull we all feel towards spending time around people who look like us? How can we, instead, become more intentional in our actions when it comes to actually meeting and engaging others in different communities?

Another great question…and we have some thoughts.

1. Recognize that diversity is a process, not a program. In other words, diversifying your network has to be something you want to do and commit to doing on a daily basis. It needs to become part of your core beliefs that you’re going to be intentional about meeting and engaging people who don’t look like you. Anything less than that is almost guaranteed to eventually fail.

2. Look at your phone and business contacts on social media. Do they all “look” the same in terms of ethnicity, age, education and gender? If so, then keep reading because you might have some work to do. As we said above, diversity is a process, not just a program. This has to be an ongoing process.

3. Consider volunteering for certain organizations which put you into contact with people who are different than you. This could be as simple as volunteering as a coach for a local sports team, scheduling some time to visit an inner city school during “career day,” or sitting on a local community service board. Just take it upon yourself to broaden the scope of contacts you have with various ethnicities.

4. Make it a point to talk to people who don’t look like you. This is one that I (Brian) personally started doing 2 years ago, and I love it! So as a black man in his 40’s who grew up in the North but lives in the South, I take it upon myself to talk to ANY white person who may or may not have the same education as me, or who may or may not be in the same physical shape as me, or who may or may not be originally from the North like me. And it’s not a question of patronizing people or anything like that…I just make it a point while passing them at the grocery store, walking to my car in the parking lot, picking up some Chinese food to say “Hey, how’s it going?” And depending on the situation, sometimes that leads to more conversation, sometimes it doesn’t. But it gets everyone out of their comfort zone for a bit engaging new folks.

5. Invite different people of different ethnicities to your networking group. If you’re in a local Chamber of Commerce or a BNI Chapter, this is a perfect opportunity for you to engage others and invite them to your group. For example, maybe you’re out networking and you see a person of color and you decide to implement Point #4 from above. Ok, then during that conversation, you let them know about your group and see if they’d like to attend. And that’s it. Super easy to do, and it is very intentional.

6. Make this a top down initiative wherever you are in the organization. For those of you who have employees in your business, this point is crucial. If you want to have diversity in your organization and be more successful as a business because of it, then you absolutely must take the lead and make diversity a “thing.” Which means it is something that people value, something that people do, and something that you, as the leader, set as an example on a regular basis for them to emulate.

7. Hard-code diversity into the fabric of your business. Similar to the previous leadership point, if you’re going to be serious about diversity in your business, we recommend you seriously consider making it one of the core values of your company. Put it in your public material, address it when talking to your team/employees, and make it a part of the DNA of the organizational culture so people are crystal clear how you feel about it and how it plays out in your company.

It is important to note that there is a subtle but crucial difference between inclusivity and diversity. You may have an organization where the members feel like it is very inclusive, but when you look at it from the outside, does it truly look diverse? If not, you need to be more intentional about being inclusive to create diversity. Diversity is a fact; inclusiveness is a choice. Intentionally acting in an inclusive manner is what creates diversity.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not there yet…maybe you haven’t done these things as well as you could have. But today is the day to start. It’s never too late to do the right thing.

Nervous Networker

Overcoming the Nervous Networker Condition

Ultimately, the goal of networking is building relationships with other people at an emotional level to help build a business. It involves meeting and interacting with people you can know and trust. However, the nervous networker is anxious about reaching out to potential contacts and prospects. Feeling comfortable introducing yourself to total strangers is one of the biggest obstacles to successful networking. If you’re a nervous networker you’re not alone. Many people feel a bit daunted about going to a networking event or meeting lots of strangers. The good news is that there are three things you can do which will reduce your anxiety.

Acting Like a Host

In her book, Skills for Success, Dr. Adele Scheele tells about a cocktail party where she met someone hesitant to introduce himself to total strangers. Dr. Scheele suggested that he “consider a different scenario for the evening. That is, consider himself the party’s host instead of its guest.” She asked him if he were the host, wouldn’t he introduce himself to people he didn’t know and then introduce them to each other? Wouldn’t he watch for lulls in conversations, or bring new people over to an already-formed small group?

Scheele’s new acquaintance acknowledged the obvious difference between the active role of the host and the passive role of the guest. Scheele concluded that “there was nothing to stop this man from playing the role of the host even though he wasn’t the actual host.”

Don’t Act, Be

Now I know that sounds easy… but, when it comes right down to it, actually acting like the host isn’t so simple for many people. Not all individuals are good at “acting” like something they are not. Therefore, I have one important thing to add to this advice: don’t “ACT” like the host, “BE” the host.

Most of the business organizations and groups that you go to have a position that is responsible for meeting visitors. I know it sounds crazy telling someone who is uncomfortable meeting new people at a networking event to be the host. At first, it must sound a little like telling a boxer to “lean into a punch!” however, there is a big difference and it works.

Most people’s fears relating to meeting new people at networking events come from not having a proper context to introduce themselves to others. When you are the host, you don’t feel uncomfortable introducing yourself to someone you don’t know who’s at your party. So the key, in feeling comfortable, is to establish the proper context.

Become a Gate Keeper

To establish the proper context, I recommend that you volunteer to be an Ambassador, or Visitor Host, at the networking groups you belong to. An Ambassador or Visitor Host is someone who greets all the visitors and introduces them to others. Over time, this type of position will allow you to meet many people, put them together with others, and become an accomplished “gatekeeper.” Helping others connect, meet, and get want they need – will unquestionably help you build your business. Furthermore, it will do it in a way that helps others.

By using this technique, you’ll start to develop excellent networking skills and get great exposure to many business professionals in a short time.

A distinguishing characteristic of self-made millionaires is that they network everywhere. Most importantly, they do it all the time – at business conferences, at the health club, on the golf course, or with the person sitting next to them on a plane. This fact alone should motivate you to place yourself in situations where you can meet new people and do so in a way that you feel comfortable.

It’s not called net-sit, or net-eat, it’s called net-work. If you want to become a better networker, try this technique out. You will be nervous, and the act of networking might feel alien, but pushing yourself can sometimes lead to great things. You will be pleased with the results.

Networking Group

Secrets of a Successful Networking Group

To help your networking group be successful, I have identified four important tips to consider when inviting visitors, selecting new members, and encouraging mentoring by your experienced members. Please note that in BNI® we call our networking groups “BNI Chapters”.

1) Invite Qualified Visitors to Your Networking Group

In any strong networking group, inviting qualified visitors is important. These groups become stronger because they tend to select new members who are more experienced in their profession. Seasoned professionals are more likely to have an already established network. Therefore, qualified visitors quickly become “qualified members” because they are more likely to pass qualified referrals to their fellow members using their own established network.  Furthermore, inexperienced people tend to pass leads as new members while they are building their network. There is a big difference between a “lead” and a “referral”.

2) Induct Experienced Members to Your Networking Group

When giving referrals to others, you want to ensure that you are recommending someone who is experienced at what they do. This is a trait that is even more important to your networking group than inducting someone just because they are well connected to the community. Do not gamble upon inducting new members who are inexperienced in their professions even if they have sizable networks. Therefore, I highly recommend that all of our BNI chapters’ Membership Committees take the time needed to fully vet and assess the level of experience of all applicants before inducting them into your BNI chapter or networking group.

In a 2002 survey of networking group members, 74 percent of networkers owned their own business. Furthermore, about one-third of business networkers were older than 50 while only 10 percent were younger than 30 years old. This would indicate that the average age of a business person in a networking group is older and more experienced than some would expect. Therefore, I firmly believe that business professionals with more experience are more likely to benefit from joining a networking group and using our referral-marketing strategy.

3) Strike a Balance Within Your Networking Group

A successful networking group should strive to seek a balance between “old pros” and “newbies.” Groups with only experienced older members can become “stuck in their ways” of networking. They also tend to stop inviting visitors to the chapter. They either claim that they have already invited everyone they know over the years or they often do not perceive visitors as being as important to the business as they once were. Meanwhile, a group made up mostly of inexperienced people can be too frenetic as they tend to pass more leads than actual qualified referrals.

4) Encourage Mentoring Between Experienced and New Members in Your Networking Group

In a successful networking group, I have observed effective mentoring between the experienced members and the newer members. Therefore, networking groups become stronger when the experienced members take newly inducted members under their wing in a mentoring relationship. The mentoring does not need to be a part of a formal training structure. I suggest just scheduling a few one-to-one’s between these two members. Take a little time to coach the new members on the finer points of word-of-mouth marketing. It is a real win-win.

As entrepreneurs become increasingly informed and educated about the tangible benefits of growing their business using a structured word-of-mouth program like BNI, many of them are seeking out a local BNIonlineTM chapter to visit virtually during an upcoming Zoom meeting. Therefore, I believe this is valuable information for entrepreneurs who are considering actively participating in a BNI chapter. If you are already a BNI member on your chapter’s current or future leadership team, incorporate these tips to grow your BNI chapter as a successful networking group.

Right Questions

Master Networkers Ask the Right Questions

People like to talk about themselves. Furthermore, people refer business to people they like. Therefore when networking, remember the quote from the Greek philosopher, Epictetus (c. 50 – 135 AD). “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”. When networking, give yourself the time to truly listen to others when they are explaining what their business is all about. Everyone has a story, so find out what their story is.  By listening to them explain their story with genuine interest, you are making a real connection with them. With this initial introduction, you are building an atmosphere of trust and rapport right from the start. All it takes is asking the right questions when you are networking with someone for the first time.

Here are the five right questions to ask when networking that will keep the conversation rolling, set you apart from other networkers, and eventually lead to referrals:

1) What do you like best about what you do?

“What do you do?” is one of the first questions most people ask when networking. Therefore, when somebody begins their networking with the statement about “what they do” with me, I usually follow-up with, “That is interesting. What do you like best about what you do?” This leads to a deeper understanding while you learn about their business as the conversation flows naturally to the next question.

2) You mentioned that you were in [industry]. What got you started in that field?

This question allows them to talk about their personal history and goals. Furthermore, you learn what sparked their career interest and led them to where they are today. It also provides insight into their dedication to their profession and how proficient they are at it. Finally, as the relationship builds over time, you begin to see ways that you might be able to provide referrals to them for their products or services from people you know. However, you need to understand how and when they network their business.

3) Where else do you usually network?

I determined years ago through personal research that people who say they are successful with networking spend on average 6.3 hours per week networking with others. Furthermore, the people who say that networking doesn’t work for them reported spending on average less than two hours per week networking. So the people who are out there and they’re successful at this, they’re networking in other places, so asking this question is a great way to find out good places to network (in addition to OR along with BNI). Therefore, this question is a great way to learn about other networking events in your area that you may be missing. Finally, this question is a great opportunity to refer them to visit a local BNI chapter meeting (online or in-person) near them or to other networking groups that you are in. Now that you are building rapport with them, it is time to learn about some of the current problems they are experiencing in their business.

4) What are some of your biggest challenges?

This question strengthens the rapport you have with them. It is an opportunity to give them a referral when they share with you their current challenges. You can say, “Hey, I know somebody who might be able to help you with that”. Please remember that this is NOT an opportunity to sell to them. Do not attempt to close a personal deal before the two of you have established your credibility between each other. At this stage, it is only an opportunity to find ways to help them.

5) How can I help you?

Only ask this question if the conversation has gone well so far and you believe that this person is someone you would like to have in your business network too. If not, do not ask this question. However, being helpful is the best way to start building a solid relationship. This final question demonstrates that you have the other person’s interests in your mind and that you are willing to help them to grow their business. Therefore, it is an excellent way to build the credibility necessary for a valuable networking partnership.

Asking the right questions is really about earning trust and gaining rapport with a new contact and doing it as quickly as you can. Therefore, asking these five questions when networking can help you become a farmer and sow the seedlings for building strong relationships over time with others. If you need additional questions to ask, here are ten great questions to ask someone while networking. Furthermore, these would be great questions to pose during your next one-to-one meeting. Finally, I would suggest that you take the time to know your own personal answers to these questions. They are likely to be asked of you in return.

Networking Fundamentals

Networking Fundamentals

What is the one secret to success?  It is a question I receive often. The one secret is… there is no “one” secret.  Therefore, how can entrepreneurs achieve success? To be successful, there are four networking fundamentals that a business owner needs to focus on.

The Networking Fundamentals to Grow Your Business

  • Be Selective
  • Continuously add people to your network
  • Seek Engagement
  • Share Stories

The Secret to Success

Over my career, I have observed people with different personalities, backgrounds, and behavioral styles achieve success in life. Many times I wondered if there was a reoccurring theme running through their success stories that would clearly illustrate what creates success. Therefore, when I interviewed average business owners and entrepreneurs over the years, I asked them what they felt their secret to success was. They generally told me things like vision, goals, passion, persistence, and systems.

I then asked many highly successful people who had obtained great wealth or personal success in business, sports, or science. They generally told me that their secret to success involved things like vision, goals, passion, persistence, and systems. Sound familiar?

Everyone I interviewed or wrote about regarding the secret to success – from Buzz Aldrin to Erin Brockovich, from average businesspeople to undergraduate college students – gave me virtually the same answer. So if we all know what it takes to be successful…

Why are we all not as successful as we would like to be?

The truth is there is no great mystery. Very often, “success is simply the uncommon application of common knowledge.”

When you hear successful people talk about the secret of their success, have you noticed that you rarely hear any real secret? What you do hear about is their unwavering adherence to some system or approach they believed in and followed with intensity and determination. Successful people focus on the goal and work through or around everything else. In sports, this is called “keeping your eye on the ball.”  They do this with a passion and a vision.

Success comes to those who have not only a passion and a vision but who also have persistence and commitment to perform the fundamentals over and over, continuing to work and learn until they can perform these networking fundamentals flawlessly. In the end, we already know what our goals are and how to achieve them. This is common knowledge, and it’s been around for a long, long time. Success is learning and practicing the four networking fundamentals.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
1 2 3 63
   Follow Me

Get every new post delivered to your inbox