This week Dr. Misner is preparing for the book tour for The 29% Solution. Today’s podcast focuses on ways to grow a chapter, divided into “Referrals,” “Light Contacts,” and “Cold Contacts.”
It’s important to remember that cold contacts are not the best way to build a referral network—but feel free to invite anyone who calls you to visit your BNI chapter.
Member Development Handout
Suggestions for generating new members to a new or, existing BNI chapter—ranked in descending order based on perceived value.
- Ask Influencers
- Ask BNI members (for core groups)
- Mail or e-mail people that you know personally
- 3rd party invite
- Personal contact
- Ask clients
- Present the opportunity during a speaking engagement
- Present the opportunity to those you meet at networking events or trade shows
- Ask somebody who is cold calling you
- Create a website
- Make cold calls
- Mail or e-mail people you don’t know
- Put out an ad
Brought to you by Networking Now.
View the entire transcript of this episode.
Complete Transcription of BNI Podcast Episode 075 –
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 working dowloadables.
I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio, which is in Berkeley, California. And I am joined on the phone today by the founder and the chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner.
Hello, Ivan. How are you?
I am doing great, Priscilla. I’ve got an interesting topic today I think that every member of BNI is going to be interested in.
Great. And where are you?
Today, I am at BNI headquarters. We’re about to start the book tour for The 29% Solution, which, by the way, hit Number 1 on Amazon.com in September and Number 3 on the Wall Street Bestsellers list, so it was a good month for the good guys. And I’m about to hit the road starting next week for the book tour.
Are you coming to Berkeley, California?
I’m afraid I won’t be in Berkeley this time, but maybe next time.
Okay. All right. Well, why don’t you share with us what you have for us this time.
Well, I want to talk about Member Development 101. And I’ve got to tell you, this presentation came almost completely ad hoc. I was speaking at a conference in Canada and I was doing an Ask the Founder session for BNI directors, and one of the directors stood up and said that they’re really having some problems with a chapter. It’s in core group development, it was just getting started, and they’re having a hard time kicking off.
Now, I just want to say, what I’m going to talk about today is not just for core groups; it’s for existing chapters and new chapters. But the question stemmed from a new chapter that was having a difficult time getting started. And I said, “Okay, well, fair enough. What are the challenges? What are you doing to try and get the chapter going?”
They said, “Well, we’re really struggling right now, so we thought we would create a Web site for the chapter. We’re making a lot of cold calls. We’re going to send out a mailing list to a Chamber mailing list. We have some e-mails that we’re sending out to people that we have – you know, contacts that we have, but we basically don’t know them, but we’re sending out basically cold call e-mailing lists. And we’re thinking about maybe taking out an ad to get this chapter off the ground.”
And I heard that, and it just hit me right between the eyes. These were probably not the strongest things to do to build a referral organization.
But I didn’t want to say that to him, so I said, “Okay. Let’s think for a moment. Let’s brainstorm; no dumb answer; any suggestion is fine. Throw out all of the different things that we can do to grow a chapter.”
And I got probably 20 different suggestions on how to grow a chapter. And you’re going to see a little over a dozen of them in this podcast on the transcript of the podcast. We’re going to cut and paste the items; there are three categories, and it’ll be right there. So if you’re listening to this podcast and you’re on the Web, go to the transcript and look at this so you can eyeball them as I’m talking.
And I said to everybody, “Give me all of them.” There was about 20. We merged a few together that were somewhat related. And then I split them up into three categories. Actually, what I did is I wrote next to them whether this was a referral, whether this recommendation that they said as a way of growing a chapter was a referral, that is, there’s somebody who you know that you’re making a connection with; whether it was a light contact, that is, you know them, but maybe you just met them, but it’s a personal contact, it’s not just a cold call; or whether it was really just a contact, you didn’t have any relationship with the person at all.
So we split them up into those three categories. Well, guess what? Every single one of the suggestions the director said that this chapter was about to do all fell into the last category. They were all cold contacts.
And that made my response really easy, because I said, “Can you see how building a referral organization through cold contacts might not work?” And the light bulb totally went on.
So, for members who are listening to this podcast, look at this list. And I’ll give you some of the other items.
Some of the light contacts would be things like inviting people during a speaking engagement. Let’s say you’re doing a presentation somewhere and you talk about the fact that a referral group is starting up and that you’re involved in, and if they’re interested in, you’d love to see them. That’s a light contact. They’ll have met you. Hopefully, you do a good presentation, they’re impressed, they might participate. You’re at a networking event and you meet somebody or you’re at a trade show and you meet somebody. I have found that technique worked very well.
Here’s one of my favorite ones, and I see chapters who do this all the time, members who do this all the time. You invite somebody who’s cold calling you. I love that technique. You know, they cold call you to do business, and one guy I met, he always won for the highest number of visitors being brought into a chapter because somebody would cold call him and he told his secretary, “Put every cold call through.” And what would happen is he said, “Yeah, I’d be glad to meet you next Tuesday morning, 7 a.m. at such-and-such restaurant. I have a networking meeting. If you come, I’ll stay afterwards, and we can talk.” And they come. Of course, many of them joined the group. But that’s how he handled cold calls. So that’s a light contact.
But here are the really, really important, strong referral contacts, things like mailing or e-mailing people that you know personally. These are people who, when they get something from you, they’ll say, “Oh, it’s so-and-so,” and they read it because they knew it was from you.
Personal contacts. Somebody that you know. You pick up the phone and you call somebody that you know. Asking your clients. Now this works really well, this next one, for core groups, chapters that are getting started. Go to some of the local BNI groups that are not far away and ask them if they have business associates in their office that they would like to come into this chapter. Now, frankly, that technique works for existing chapters as well.
Nothing wrong with that as well, but really well for core groups. And bring in people, and you can not only start a chapter, but you can also fill an existing chapter by going to and creating – let’s say you’re an existing chapter. One of the things you can do is create sister chapter relationships where you say, “Look, if I have somebody who comes to our group but can’t join, we’ll refer them to your chapter. Would you do the same for us?” And you use that as a way of building the chapter.
And then, the last one was asking influencers, that is, asking people you know are movers and shakers in the town. And we talked about this. We have a whole podcast devoted substantially to this topic. In one of the first – it’s probably the first two or three months of our podcasts, there was a recording with Patty Salvucci, so if you are listening, you go back, I think it’s the Core Group Development podcast. And she talks about how she used influencers to kick off what is now one of the largest regions of BNI in the greater Boston area.
So, if you look at those, those are all direct connection second- or third-party invites; you are inviting somebody you know or you’re asking somebody you know to invite somebody they know. And that is also known as a referral. What better way to build a referral organization than through referrals. What a thought.
And I’ve got to tell you that’s the way I opened 20 chapters in the first year of BNI, and that’s the way I opened 20 groups, was predominately through referrals, the first category, and the light contacts. I did virtually none of the cold contacts, and that, I think, is the way most groups will be successful.
I’d love to see chapters go back and have a dialog within the chapter about these, and here’s what I’d really like. If one of the members listening to this podcast comes up with another idea that’s completely off this list, I’d love to get their comment under the Comments section of the podcast so that I could add things to this. I’d like to see it as a living document that I add to and do presentations on.
Great. Well, you know, there’s another aspect to getting somebody by referral versus cold calling, because by referral, you’re hearing that they’re a reputable person and that you can trust them. But if they’re a cold call, then you have no idea what their work is like.
You know, you’re absolutely right, and you bring up a really, really important topic. I have found that chapters that start predominately from people who don’t know each other take a lot longer to be developing referrals than when there’s a core group of people in that chapter who know each other, that there are a lot of overlapping relationships. Because when there are a lot of those overlapping relationships, the trust factor grows quicker, and when the trust factor grows quicker, the referrals grow quicker. So, it’s not only better to actually get the chapter going or to get it to grow quickly, it’s also better to get the referrals to grow quickly.
So, you hit that one right on the head. I agree completely.
And you also don’t want to populate your group with people that aren’t of the highest quality.
You’re right. And, of course, if you know somebody, chances are pretty good that they are good at what they do because, again, there’s that third-party referral. So those are all of the right reasons. It works better; it brings you more referrals; and you have higher quality. So, why exactly are we thinking about sending out the bulk e-mail?
Or putting out an ad.
Or putting out an ad? And you gave one before we started the podcast. You were talking about picking up cards off a bulletin board and giving them a call, and I think you tried that once. How did it work out?
The guy thought I was crazy, and he got very defensive. Especially when I called back to encourage him to come, he got suspicious and defensive; and it was really did not work.
Yes, it doesn’t because there’s no trust factor; and when there’s a trust factor, it’s so much easier to build a chapter.
So, for those of you listening to the podcast, just to wrap up, go through this list. You’ll find the list on the transcript, print it out, and have a discussion with your chapter. If you come up with some that aren’t on this list, tell me which of the three categories they should go in and give me the item, and I’ll add it to this list over time.
Great. Well, I think we might be out of time.
We are. Thank you very much, Priscilla. I appreciate it.
You’re so welcome. Thank you, Dr. Misner.
Well, I think that’s it, and I just want 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. Thanks for listening. This is Priscilla Rice, and we hope that you’ll join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.