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Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Larger the Networking Group, the More Referrals it will Generate

Networking Success with Dr. Ivan Misner
Ivan's section is sponsored by

It is certainly true that larger networking groups can exponentially generate more referrals. True, that is, within each type of referral group. Among strong-contact referral groups, such as BNI, studies have consistently shown that a group with forty members will typically generate more referrals per member than one with twenty-five members. It stands to reason: The more people in your group, the more databases you have access to. But the same thing happens among casual-contact networks like chambers of commerce, a two-hundred-member group will probably generate more referrals than a one-hundred-member group.

However, it is important to realize that this does not imply that a one-hundred-member chamber of commerce will pass more referrals than a forty-member referral-networking organization. The strong-contact group is focused primarily on generating referrals for its members, and it is structured in such a way that time for passing information and referrals is built into each meeting, and that members are personally accountable for generating referrals for other members of the group. A chamber of commerce will offer plenty of opportunities to pass referrals, including forming some special committees that can serve as a sort of strong-contact referral group, but in general, it is not structured to focus on this as a primary activity. Because of this, this type of organization is really made up of three parts: It is part information network, part service organization, and part referral group.

Bear in mind that a master networker does not exclusively need a highly structured organization in order to generate and receive referrals. She can do this in almost any setting, because she has highly developed relationship skills. She constantly looks for ways to help or benefit her networking partners, and she has developed a reputation as someone who can get things done, no matter what the organization or situation. For her, a casual-contact group can serve as well as a strong-contact group—perhaps better, because there are more possible connections in a larger group, whether it is structured to make those connections automatically or not.

A master networker carries her entire network with her at all times, and can make connections that benefit people in different industries, interest groups, and geographic areas who would probably never have heard of each other without her help. This requires a strong desire to help others succeed: You must constantly be on the lookout for people who have need of the service a member of your network provides.

It’s also true that, despite the built-in structure and focus on referrals, a member of a strong-contact group can fail to generate referrals for other members or to receive referrals for himself. Networking skills are the number one requirement; the setting only makes it easier to use these skills. Simply being a member of a strong-contact group does not entitle you to expect or receive referrals. Nor does being a member of a casual-contact group limit the number of referrals you can generate or receive, if you have the skills and use them.

One savvy – and extremely successful – networker loads the names and cell phone numbers of every member of her networking group, and when new members join, she adds them to her database immediately. She has found that she has a much bigger chance of seeing closed business between her contact and the person to whom she is making the referral when she can make the introduction immediately – right when she learns of the need of her contact.

For example, you are at meeting with one of your clients, who mentions that his wife is expecting twins, and that he is consumed with trying to figure out the best life insurance options for his family. You have an extremely knowledgeable life insurance professional in your network, you tell your client, and you would be happy to provide his contact information – better yet, you say, let me just get him on his cell. You look organized and well-connected to your client, and – if you and this agent are close enough to be on a “cell phone basis,” you must know him pretty well, so the comfort level of your client with your referral is already elevated.

Whatever you pay to join a referral-networking group is only the price of admission—it gets you into the room where opportunities may come your way, but it doesn’t entitle you to receive referrals. It’s not enough just to show up and participate. You also have to perform.

In other words, if joining a referral-networking group doesn’t work out for you, it’s all your fault. (Okay, “your responsibility,” for those of you who are more diplomatic).


Called the “Father of Modern Networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI (, the world’s largest business networking organization. His latest book, The 29% Solution can be viewed at Dr. Misner is also the Senior Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company ( He can be reached at

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The Emergence of the Relationship Economy features TNNWC Founder, Adam J. Kovitz as a contributing author and contains some of his early work on The Laws of Relationship Capital. The book is available in hardcopy and e-book formats. With a forward written by Doc Searls (of Cluetrain Manifesto fame), it is considered a "must read" for anyone responsible for the strategic direction of their business. If you would like to purchase your own copy, please click the image above.


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