inviting Archives - Dr. Ivan Misner®
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.

Two Tactics to Help with the ABCs of Networking — “Navigating the VCP Process® to Networking” Series

(Part 7 of 12 of the “Navigating The VCP Process® To Networking” Series)

TR Garland (featured in this video with me) is a friend of mine and co-author of one of my most recent #1 best-selling books called “Building The Ultimate Network.”  He’s also considered a top trainer for the Referral Institute.

For some time now, we’ve both observed a need to drill down on one of the most important and foundational concepts to networking – The VCP Process®.  Seven months ago, we started a much-anticipated 12-part monthly series of blog posts which addresses this and contains some very timely information for networkers across the globe.  Today, we’re proud to share with you Part 7 of the series  which is a follow up to the Part 6 video blog we did about the ABCs of networking.  Enjoy!

Please let us know what you think of the ABCs of Networking concept, the two tactics we offer in this video, or just the video in general.  We’d love to read your comments in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

7 Ways to Connect with Networking Partners

1.  Arrange a one-to-one meeting. Meeting a referral source in person is an excellent opportunity to learn more about his business and interests. Prepare some questions in advance so that the conversation flows smoothly. Be ready to give an update on your business and to ask lots of questions about your source’s interests.

2.  Extend an invitation. Invite a referral source to a networking event. Introducing her to other businesspeople you know gives your source an opportunity to meet others in your target market and may also provide new business opportunities.

3.  Set up an activity. A recreational activity, such as a golf outing, fishing trip, concert or play, is a great opportunity to let your referral source see a different side of you in an informal setting. The activity should be one that will give everybody time to relax, but it may also include an element of information such as a speech or educational presentation. To maximize the effectiveness of your time with your sources, you should invite no more than four people and spend at least one hour with each.

4.  Arrange a group activity for clients. Gathering your clients together creates an excellent environment for synergy and for raising your credibility with all. The one thing the people in this group will definitely have in common is you, so you’ll certainly be the focus of a good many conversations. Group activities may be social, such as a barbecue or a ball game, or they may be educational, such as a seminar or demonstration.

5.  Nominate a referral source. Watch for opportunities to nominate a referral source for an award. Local service and civic organizations often present annual awards recognizing contributions to a particular cause, and local periodicals often sponsor awards contests for businesspeople. Find out what groups and interests your referral source is involved in, and check to see if there is any form of recognition associated with them.

6.  Include a source in your newsletter. Even a brief mention of a referral source in your newsletter can pay dividends down the road, including the opportunity for your source to reciprocate with his newsletter.

7.  Arrange a speaking engagement. Help your referral source get in front of a group that would be interested in her business or area of expertise. Local chapters of service organizations, such as Rotary and Kiwanis, are always looking for good speakers. If you belong to a group that invites people to speak, use your contacts to help your source make the rounds among various chapters.

What are some other ways that you recommend to stay in contact with your networking partners?

If You’re Not Inviting, You’re Missing Out

Inviting prospective referral sources to an event you’re attending, hosting or participating in as a featured guest, exhibitor, panel speaker or award recipient is a great way to enhance your contact with them and build credibility.

If you’re not inviting your prospective referral sources to events, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to keep them informed of activities you’re involved in. When the event is one where you have a chance to share your expertise or where you are being recognized for an achievement, using this tactic contributes to building your credibility and image as a successful and knowledgeable professional.  This tactic also helps acquaint your targets with others in your network and transforms strictly business relationships into friendships.

If you haven’t been inviting prospective sources to events and you’re not sure whom to invite or how to invite them, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Make a list of the events you’ll be attending and a list of network members you might invite.
  • With plenty of lead time, call or write each prospective source to invite him or her to the event; explain the reason for the invitation.
  • Pay your network member’s admission fee, if there is one.
  • Make sure the event offers benefits to your prospective sources, such as an opportunity to meet someone they admire, to be entertained or to be recognized.
  • Whenever possible, allow your guests to invite guests of their own.
  • It’s OK to invite people you do not expect to attend.  Remember, one of your aims is to keep your sources informed of what you are doing.

So, what events are you attending in the coming weeks?  Make use of the tips above and make it your goal to invite someone to each event you attend from here on out. Chances are you’ll not only reap some great benefits, you’ll probably enjoy the event even more with your network member along.

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