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Thursday, October 07, 2010

BNI: If You Are Networking Like You Did Two Years Ago, You Might Be...

The way business is done has changed over the past two years. These changes have influenced how and where we network! We need to approach people differently – not just in a physical sense, but also in our attitude and intentions. People can sense whether you are truly interested in them or if they are just a “target” in your line of vision.

If you are networking the same way you did two years, you might be missing out on huge opportunities!

Do you still…

  1. Attend networking events (like the chamber, BNI socials, etc.), randomly meet people in the room, exchange cards and feel like you’ve networked…
  2. Talk to people about how great your company and products are…
  3. Talk a lot and try to persuade those you meet to set up an appt…
  4. Go to events determined to get appointments…
  5. Compete by price or cost and that’s what you talk about…
  6. Meet someone and ask them for a referral or ask them to pass your card to others…
  7. Talk more than you listen...
  8. Feel that networking doesn’t work because you aren’t getting new business from your networking activities…

If any of the above strategies reflect how you are currently networking, try substituting one of these at the next networking event you attend:
  1. Before attending a networking event (like the chamber, BNI socials, etc.), identify 3 people you’d like to help find referrals for and take some of their cards. Look for opportunities to pass referrals for others. Give first. It will come back to you.
  2. Take the strategy above and focus on 3 of your clients or customers who have businesses. See if you can find referrals for them. This will increase their loyalty for your business and also show them how they can effectively bring business back to you.
  3. Identify who you want to meet and why. What problems do they have and how can you help them? What’s in it for them if they meet with you? Once you have specific answers, find out who you know that knows this person. As him/her to provide a personal introduction and open the door for a brief meeting.
  4. Substitute the standard question “What do you do?” with things like, “why did you go into the ____________ business?” “What’s your favorite thing about being a ________?” “How has the economy (or whatever a hot topic is) affected your business?” Listen attentively. Make them feel like they are the only person in the room at that time!
  5. Focus on 2 or 3 “hot” potential clients at a time. Find out what their interests and hobbies are. Add those topics into “Google alert” so that each time something on that subject is indexed by Google, you’ll receive a notification. If it’s good information, copy and paste into a document that looks nice (make sure you leave the credits, author, and web link in place) and send to the person with a little note, “I came across this and thought you might be interested. Have a great day!” Even if they don’t read the article, they’ll be impressed that you remembered and took the time to send it!

Do you see the difference? Whether you are networking at live events or through social media platforms, the foundation of effective networking is building relationships that are genuine and sincere. When you focus on “how can I help?” your contacts sense the difference and respond differently. Focus on making their businesses and lives better. You’ll attract the people who want, need, and are willing to buy what you offer.

The way business is done has changed and we need to reflect those changes in how we find new clients and customers. By choosing only one new idea to adapt at a time, you’ll give yourself the time and experience to make the change a habit. Then move on to the next one. And so on.

If you are networking the same way you did two years, you ARE missing out on huge opportunities! Embrace the new networking style and let “you” and your desire to help others shine. As you do, your business will grow in ways that are sustainable, profitable and fun!

Sue Henry is owner of Sue Henry Talks, a speaking and training company. She has been teaching people effective business strategies that increase visibility, credibility, and profitability. Her most popular topics are networking, social media marketing in 15 minutes a day, and tools to overcome those negative thoughts that keep you from achieving the success you dream of and deserve. She's an Area Director with BNI MN/NoWI directly responsible for 800 members and a team of 15 ambassadors/directors.

With over 5,500 active chapters, and over 100,000 members throughout every populated continent worldwide, BNI is the largest and most successful business referral organization in the world. BNI was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner and the organization, which allows only one person from each profession to join a chapter, offers members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts, and most importantly, referrals. Last year alone, members of BNI passed 6.2 million referrals, generating 2.6 billion dollars’ worth of business.

For more information on BNI, please visit or call BNI Headquarters at 909.608.7575.

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Sherman Rockwell said...

I really appreciate this article. Not only do you identify some pretty awful, but common, networking tactics, you give some really good tools to consider. I especially enjoyed your idea of taking other people’s business cards and looking for referrals for them. I intend to both use and share your thoughts.

JerryWilliamson said...

"Identify who you want to meet and why" is a powerful statement Sue. So few of us think in advance who we want to meet when we plan to attend a networking event. Imagine how much closer we can get to our goals if we actually plan to meet specific people and know why we want to meet them and have good conversation starters once we do get that opportunity.

Rodney Prouty said...

People love conversations when they do all the talking. The best networkers ask questions to get others talking. Your practical advice of network for 3 others and addressing "how you can help" those you want to meet truly reinforce the art of best referral generating practices which does miraculously come back to you. Fantasticly stated, Sue!

Billy Howard said...

This goes back to the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People", a truly timeless book. One of the biggest takeaways from that book is to remember a person's name and use it often. If you are listening to them, discussing their issues, and genuinely seeking ways to help them solve said issues, you will develop a reputation as a Giver and from BNI we know that Giver's Gain (eventually, remember to be patient). I love the idea of going into a meeting with the idea of spreading the word about 3 OTHER people! Thanks, Sue!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Sue for the informative article. As a new BNI member I appreciate these valuable tips for networking! Trust and loyalty are so important when working with clients and growing business relationships ~ The giver's gain philosophy is a win win!

Anonymous said...

Great pointers Sue! Effective networking is a challenge. I find that getting others talking about their interests and hobbies and showing genuine interest in them has been very effective for me. It builds the relationship that can turn into business opportunities later. But I never thought to send them an email with an article on their hobby or interest. You are always thinking outside the box and I love it! ~ Ben

Andrew T. Klein, DC said...

Great article Sue! I will make more of an effort to listen, rather than just chit chat with people!

Greg Ahrensfeld said...

You've made so many great points here, Sue. I suggest to the readers that if you haven't pulled at least 2 usable ideas from this article, you may want to re-read it. Thanks for the great insight!

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