The best way to increase your business is by mastering the art of networking. Nobody understands this concept better than Dr. Ivan Misner. Dr. Misner is the founder of BNI or Business Network Int’l., the world’s largest networking and referral organization. BNI has over 5,291 chapters with 111,733 members in 42 countries worldwide. Last year alone, members of BNI passed 6.5 million referrals which generated over $2.8 billion dollars worth of business for its members.
When it comes to the art of networking as a means to build your business, Dr. Misner has identified five key strategies. In this first of a two-part series, we’ll examine two of Dr. Misner’s recommended tactics:
1 – Diversify Your Networks
It’s no secret, you’re not going to meet people by being a “cave-dweller” who sits behind a desk all day. In other words, good business people put themselves out into the community. Misner takes the concept one step further by recommending that professionals diversify the groups they associate with. He suggests that individuals select at least three different groups to pursue, since networking with just one group is the business equivalent of putting all of your eggs in one basket.
Good examples of organizations to network with include local chambers of commerce, Rotary and Lions Clubs, country clubs, churches, temples and schools. Misner says that even though some of these groups aren’t known for business networking, trusted relationships are built and referrals do take place. As long as you properly honor the event you’re attending, there is no harm in networking.
Dr. Misner goes on to say that a good networker is someone who wants to help people. Referral opportunities arise every day, but in order to recognize them we must first learn the language of referrals. These opportunities begin with phrases such as, “I need”, “I don’t know”, or “I can’t”. In order to be prepared for such events, it’s a good idea to carry a business card file containing your favorite referral contacts and pass a card along in an appropriate situation. Another idea is to write the referral contact’s name on the back of your card and have the recipient email you for the contact information. Most importantly, teach your referral partners to do the same for you.
2 – Develop Your Contact Spheres
A “contact sphere” is a group of professionals who work in non-competitive businesses which could potentially lead to symbiotic relationships. As an example, a loan officer’s sphere would include real estate agents, financial planners, CPAs, insurance agents, landscapers, handymen, etc.
Citing his philosophy of “breadth versus depth”, Dr. Misner emphasizes that sheer numbers are not nearly as important as the quality of relationships within one’s sphere. He points out that strengthening these bonds is about more than simply referring business. It’s about your ability to help someone however you can, which may be through the offering of advice or the sharing of ideas. Just remember the “Law of Reciprocity”. What you contribute to others will eventually come back to you.
Look for the remaining three strategies in Part II of this series.