Networking Is About More Than Just Talking Business
Many people think that networking consists only of talking about business and exchanging cards. That is a misconception, which is definitely part of it. However, it is not all of it.
In a networking group, you want to talk about more than just business with your fellow members. A referral relationship is more than, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business.” A much better approach is to find common ground on a personal level, make connections with other people, then talk about each other’s businesses.
The longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections with potential referral partners. Successful networking is about building personal relationships. If you remove the personal part from the equation, you limit the amount of business that can happen.
The GAINS Exchange
Years ago, I developed the GAINS Exchange for BNI® members. The acronym stands for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills. The idea is to have people share personal and professional information about themselves in those five areas to find overlapping interests or activities. For instance, if you and I have a common goal of completing a marathon, that gives us something more to talk about. We share both a goal and an interest, which opens the door to an engaging conversation and strengthens our connection.
In one BNI chapter I worked with when I was testing this out, there were two participants who had known each other for more than a year but had never done business with each other and really hadn’t made any connection at all. It wasn’t that they didn’t like each other; their businesses were very different, and they didn’t seem to have anything in common. They did not want to do the GAINS Exchange together. However, once they did, they found that they were both coaches for their sons’ soccer/football teams. They quickly became close friends and started helping each other conduct certain aspects of the soccer practices and shared coaching techniques.
Guess what? Within a few months after they started interacting on a personal level, they started passing business to each other. That’s right – they began referring business to each other. Two guys who had barely spoken to each other for a year because they had so little in common, ended up doing business with each other because they built a relationship over soccer, over football. Who would have thought that? I certainly didn’t, and yet when I saw the results, I knew that this was an essential business technique for people to build their business by referral.
Using GAINS Effectively
I recommend that BNI members use the GAINS Exchange every time they have a One-to-One meeting with fellow members. It is most effective to take turns – I talk about my Interests, both personal and professional, and then YOU talk about your Interests. Then I talk about my Accomplishments, and you tell me about yours, and so on. By doing it back and forth, you each have the opportunity to ask questions that allow you to discover your common interests. This is the foundation for a successful, mutually beneficial business relationship.
During your first One-to-One with another member, you may want to start with Interests first, which are often the beginnings of a relationship.
It’s okay to go out of order, as long as you each get to talk about all five of the GAINS topics.
Keep in mind that your GAINS Exchange information will need to be updated a few times each year. When one of your Goals becomes an Accomplishment, it needs to be noted. If you learn to speak Spanish, add it to your Skills section. Joining a Rotary Club is another Network on your GAINS profile. The most successful networkers meet with their fellow chapter members more than once, allowing them to find out what’s new.
- Goals are how we help one another. It’s much easier to give referrals to someone when you know what they are trying to achieve
- Knowing someone else’s Accomplishments lets you build their credibility.
- Interests help us find common ground and build rapport.
- Discovering each other’s different Networks lets us connect one another to diverse professionals.
- Skills provide more credibility and open doors to doing business.
Business networking really is much more than simply telling someone what you do for work. It’s all about referrals. The goal is to build relationships with people that you know and trust. When you know and trust them, you are going to have the comfort to refer them to others and they will do the same for you.
By talking about more than just business with our potential referral partners, we find common, non-business interests that endear us to the other person. We move beyond salesperson and become a friend.
I’d like to hear from you. How has talking about more than just business helped you build your professional relationships?
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