For years I’ve said that successful business networking is about building relationships with the people in your network. In addition to attending regular networking group meetings, it is imperative that you have one-to-one meetings with your fellow members outside of the group meetings.
This allows you to get a deeper understanding about their business, their products and services, their customers, and learn how you can refer them to people you know. It is also a way for them to do the same for you.
However, some people decline to have one-to-one meetings with their networking partners. I had a conversation with Tiffanie Kellog, BNI regional Training Team Coordinator in West Central Florida, USA, and we discussed the question: When is it okay to say no to a one-to-one?
Well, the answer is: NEVER. It’s never okay to say no to a one-to-one; that is, if you still want to generate referrals from that member.
What is the Purpose of a One-to-One?
The goal is to build relationships with our networking partners — to move through the VCP Process®, going from visibility, to credibility, to profitability. If we say no to a one-to-one meeting, if we’re too busy for our fellow members, then it is stopping the relationship. Think about it – if you’re too busy for a one-to-one, how are you going to have time to take care of the referrals I want to give to you?
And you never know what can come from a one-to-one meeting, even if you don’t think that person has much to contribute to you. I once went to a business meeting and sat next to a college student. I first thought, “Geez, what am I doing, sitting next to this college student? There are all these businesspeople that I want to sit next to.” And I thought to myself, okay, buck-up buttercup. You’re an expert on networking, network with this student. So I asked her lots of questions and got her to open up.
And guess what happened. After the meeting, one of the business associates came up to me and said, “Thank you.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Nobody ever talks to my daughter like that. They all want to sit next to the businesspeople. But you got her to open up and I really appreciate what you did at dinner.” I ended up making a good connection with the father, and I hardly talked to him at all. You never know where a one-to-one can lead.
Tips to Make it Easier to Say “Yes” to a 1-2-1
- Schedule well in advance. Find a date that is convenient for both of you. One-to-one meetings are always more successful when both members have time to prepare.
- Schedule outside your busiest season. We all understand that certain times of year are busier for some professions, such as accountants during tax time and retail store owners during holiday season. People appreciate when we respect their time restraints.
- Have a purpose and format for the meeting. You can ask: What is the intention for the meeting? What are we looking to accomplish? Utilizing the G.A.I.N.S. exchange is a very powerful format for a first time one-to-one with a networking partner.
- Stack multiple one-to-one meetings on the same day at the same location. This saves you time traveling to multiple locations on different days. You can also schedule virtual meetings back-to-back. Pick one or two days a week and block off time for meetings with your referral partners.
- When someone asks you for a meeting, it’s okay to ask what they want to talk about and how long they think it will take. Having an agenda can help you decide how soon you want to schedule the meeting, and whether you need a one-to-one or just a quick conversation.
Business networking is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships. Investing the time and effort into getting to know your networking members through productive, referral generating one-to-one meetings is the key to networking success.