Being able to talk to anyone doesn’t mean you’re good at networking. Sometimes extroverts need to learn to shut up and listen. Most people are not born networkers.
You can belong to a networking organization, but if you’re not an active participant, you won’t benefit much. Engage your fellow members in the learning process and practice, practice, practice.
So what are the top characteristics of great networkers?
- Being willing to help other people.
- Having a positive attitude.
- Following up on referrals.
- Lots of diverse connections.
Brought to you by Networking Now.
Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 273 -
Hello everyone and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, CA. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and Chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello Ivan. How are you?
I am doing great, Priscilla, thank you very much. I think we have an interesting topic today: Not a born networker. It’s not a problem. I think a lot of people think they are at a huge disadvantage because they may not have what they think are the networking skills or they don’t think they are born networkers. I try to tell members that the truth is that very few people are really good at this.
Oftentimes, the people who think they are good aren’t really as good as they think. You know, they think they are good because they can talk to anybody and strike up a conversation with anyone. But the truth is that striking up a conversation with somebody doesn’t make you a good networker. It makes you a good talker. Being a good talker doesn’t make you a good networker.
A good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them both proportionately. You should be listening more than you are talking. I know we have talked about his in previous podcasts, being an extrovert vs. being an introvert. Being an extrovert doesn’t mean you are good at networking. It just means that you are good at striking up conversations. But sometimes extroverts need to learn how to shut up and listen and find out about the other person.
From my perspective in a majority of the world, networking is really an acquired skill. Most people are not born networkers. They develop that skill through education, through training, attitude, practice and
experience. I absolutely do not believe that I am a natural born networker. It took years of experience, training, writing and understanding for me to be at all good at networking.
Any technique of value requires commitment to learn how to do it effectively, whether you are talking about sales or management. You know, the next generation of professionals will, I think, operate undera different model of management, in which networking is an integral element. They are going to take advantage of every opportunity to learn how to network more effectively. It’s a skill that will, I think, grow in importance. The key is, I think, you have to really engage in the process.
Will Rogers once said you might be on the right track, but if you’re just sitting there, you are going to get run over. You can be active in a networking organization. You can belong to a networking organization, but if you are not active and do not learn how to engage in your organization, then you are going to get run over. You are not on the right track. Being on the right track is taking advantage of the opportunities that are offered in a group like BNI. It means you are active in the process, and particularly, in the educational process. The chapters that are most successful are the ones that immerse and engage in that culture of learning.
Curiously, I think a lot of people invest time in networking, but not much time in learning how to network effectively. In the gender book I wrote, we took a look at people who learned how to network by reading books and taking seminars. It’s really a small percentage of people who read books, take seminars, listen to audio CDs. It’s the minority of people who do.
Members listening to this podcast, do you want to do this better? You have to engage in the process. Here is the funny thing here, Priscilla, I am singing to the choir because they are listening to this podcast.
But people who want to be successful need to listen to our CDs, they need to listen to these podcasts. They need to watch the videos that we do. Read the books. Read the articles. Talk to people who network well, and most importantly, practice what they learn. So if you are doing it and your members aren’t, you’re not going to get quite the same results.
If you can find ways to engage your fellow members in BNI in listening to these podcasts and reading the material, then practice, practice, practice. Practice the things that we talk about. That is the way to help acquire the skills and then perfect the skills so that you as a member can master the process and surround yourself with people who have mastered the process.
Networking success is really not about being a natural born networker. It’s about learning, practicing and applying what you learn in order to become a master at networking. Putting in the work to become successful in networking, I think, pays big rewards. But you have to do the hard work necessary. I think my message for this podcast is engage your fellow members in the learning process because I can do this, and if I can learn it, just about anybody can.
I just have one question. What do you think the top five characteristics of a very good networker would be?
We’ve actually done some surveys on that, and you can find that in Masters of Networking, and my gender book, Business Networking and Sex. But the things that constantly pop up as being the top characteristics are things like having a giving philosophy, being willing to help other people, which you know, is counter intuitive to some people. If you are in BNI, it makes sense, but a lot of people are like really? Being willing to help people is one of the top? But if you are in BNI, you get the philosophy of givers gain. That’s one.
Here’s another one that I didn’t expect when I first saw it. Attitude. It always pops up as one of the top five. Somebody with a positive attitude. People hate to do business with grumpy people. Right? I always tell people. Don’t complain about how bad business is for you because half the people that you tell don’t care and the other half are glad that you are worse off than they are. You have to have a positive attitude. People like to surround themselves with positive people.
Following up with referrals almost always comes in in the top characteristics. Nobody likes giving a referral and then that person not following up on it. How maddening is that.
Interestingly enough, providing a good service never appeared in the top ten. I think the reason for that is it is sort of assumed that I am only going to refer people who provide a good service. I don’t refer people who don’t do a good job. So that’s a given. Now that that given is in place, what am I looking for? I’m looking for people who want to give, who want to support, who want to help. I want to do business with people I like. I like positive people. Those are some of the characteristics.
Take a look at Masters of Networking and you can see a top ten list, as well as Business Networking and Sex, the gender book.
And being a connecter, right? Somebody who really enjoys putting people together, I think would be a good one.
That’s one of the top ten. You know, networking with people who know people. That’s one of the reasons, by the way, that diversity is key in networking. Networks are by nature clumpy. That is the technical term, clumpy. They are cluster like, right? We tend to surround ourselves with people like us. The truth is if you want to build a powerful personal network, you surround yourself with a number of people who are different from you because they become connecters. They connect you to other clumps, other clusters of people who are different than you and give you the opportunity to broaden your market. Diversity is actually an important aspect of finding good connecters.
That’s interesting. That’s one of the nice things about BNI. It brings all these different people from different businesses with different skillsets and puts them together in the same room.
It does. There is that natural inherent aspect of BNI because you have all these different professions with different areas of expertise. It’s important to go even broader than that. You should think of not only the different professions, but what is the age make up of your group? By the way, never say no to somebody because you have too many people who are of a particular age. But what you want to do is seek out- if your group is older and you want some young blood in there, seek out some young members. If have a young group, seek out some mature members. Never say yes or no to somebody because of their age. There is my lawyer talking.
Try to get some diversity. Race, culture, the more diverse you are culturally, the more you have connecters who connect you to that culture more effectively. Education. Try to have some diversity based on education. You know, have some members who are highly educated and some who are more vocational because again, it gives you a whole different spectrum of connections that you might not otherwise have. So diversity in many ways is important for those connections.
That is all good.
Just to wrap up, I know we are almost out of time, virtually none of us are natural born networkers. I know people who are naturally great at talking but many of them if you actually go deep are not great at networking without a little and training. It might be self trained. It might be by having read books. It’s natural for us to sell, sell, sell. When you meet somebody, you want to sell to them. You can be natural at talking to people but not necessarily natural at giving to people.
I would argue it’s not a natural talent for most people. If you are a member and you say, you know, I’m not necessarily real good at that, you are in good company because I was horrible, absolutely horrible as a networker. One of the reasons I started BNI was I wanted to learn how to do this networking thing better. I put BNI together so I could learn how to do this. I didn’t have all the answers. I hoped that my colleagues would help me find the answers. I think they have. I would consider myself reasonably good at this. But it’s a journey not a destination.
That’s great. Thank you.
I do have one other thing. Let me just throw in this last thing. If you are listening to this podcast, I’d love to hear how you learned to network. If you don’t think you’re a natural born networker, what are some of the best things that you have done? What books have you read, do you like the podcasts, what CDs- how are you learning to network? That would make a great dialogue. Drop me a note. I read all of your notes, by the way. Everybody who posts, I read. So I promise you I’ll see it. Thanks, Priscilla.
I think that’s it for this week. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by networkingnow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. Thank you so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice, and we hope you will join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.