This is a rebroadcast of Episode 189.
In order to evaluate your sphere of influence, you need to take inventory of the people you know. When was the last time you really went through your complete contact list? Check your e-mail address book, your mobile phone directory, your stacks of business cards. Who do you know? Who have you forgotten that you know? Where are these people in the VCP process? Are some of them still at the pre-visibility stage? Do you want to move the relationship along? Invite them to a BNI meeting. Invite them to a chamber of commerce meeting.
Don’t be afraid to include your friends and family in this. While you should never be pushy, think how you would feel if they bought services you provide from someone else, just because they didn’t know you offered that service.
Brought to you by Networking Now.
Complete Transcription of BNI Podcast Episode 189 –
Hello everyone and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, 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 today by the Founder and Chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello Ivan. How are you and where are you?
I am doing great, Priscilla. Thank you. I am in southern California, back home, this week. At BNI, we are doing directors’ training. Every couple of months we bring in directors from all around the world, certainly all over North America, and do three days of training. We are in the midst of that right now.
Wow. That sounds like a lot of work.
It is a lot of work. I’ll tell you one thing. I try to make BNI feel like a family-run company, a small company. We are no longer a small company, but I try to make it feel that way. Whenever we do the training, we invite all of the directors to my house for dinner on night. So everybody is headed to my house tonight for dinner.
Wow. That’s great.
Today I want to talk about expanding your overall sphere of influence. I am going to start by telling you a little story about a BNI member who took me to school one day on this concept. I can even tell you the year. It was the year I started BNI, 1985. We had been operating for less than six months. I was a member of a chapter and I remember talking to a BNI member and saying, “I am done. I invited everybody I could think of to the meeting, and there is nobody else left that I can think of whom I can invite.”
And she said to me, “Really? You have invited everybody?”
I was like “Yeah, absolutely.”
She said to me, “Have you literally gone through your contact database?”
At that time in 1985, there was very little online and very little in terms of technology, so it really mostly my Rolodex, my printed address book. She said, “Have you gone through it line by line?”
I said, “Well, no, but I know who’s in there.”
She said, “Really? Just give it a try. I did it recently and it made a world of difference. I saw all kinds of people that I didn’t think of.”
So I did it reluctantly. I had nothing else to lose. I went through my Rolodex and address books. I was amazed. I was amazed at all the people who jumped out at me that I never thought of, as either doing business with or inviting them into BNI- in either case, really expanding the sphere of influence in what I was doing.
That’s really the topic of my discussion today, the fact that the foundation of any relationship networking effort is all about people and your sphere of influence represents the overall number of people with whom you network. This includes people you know very well or casually. In order to evaluate your sphere of influence, you really need to take inventory of the people you know.
Surprisingly, a lot of people haven’t done that. I didn’t until this BNI member suggested to me that I really didn’t have a handle on everybody that I knew- which kind of seems obvious, but I didn’t think it was, and it was true.
Preparing your inventory is as simple as asking yourself who do I know and who knows me? This includes anyone you interact or might interact with personally or professionally- clients, your business associates, vendors (that was one I didn’t think of), creditors, employees, friends, family members. You want to go through your software database, your email contacts, your electronic Rolodex, and for those of you who are still last century, your actual, physical Rolodex. There are a few people around still. Your mobile phone contacts. Your business card collection.
You want to go through that. You want to discard the names of people who you have moved on with or lost touch. You want to analyze those relationships with the ones you feel you are still current with or could be current again with. Ask yourself, how do I know them? Determine where of each of these individuals are in the VCP process.
I know I have talked about this concept in a couple of other podcasts. Take your database and say where am I with this person? Am I at visibility? Am I at credibility? Or profitability? Do they know who I am? Do they know what I do? Do they know that I am good at it? Have they ever given me referrals before? You want to break down your database into those three categories. In some cases, you might be pre-visibilty. You may actually have a fourth level, with pre-visibility, where if you contact them, they may or may not remember you.
You want to communicate with these people differently, based on the kind of relationship that you have. So my recommendation this week is that BNI members go through their database, wherever it may be, may be in multiple locations, and determine where they are in that relationship. If it is somebody that you would like to move along into the relationship, bring them along, get them to know you better, invite them to a BNI meeting. Even if they may not necessarily be the perfect member, but you want to build that relationship more. Invite them to BNI. Invite them to a chamber meeting. Invite them to a service club that you might belong to.
Connect with them and maybe do a one to one. Bring yourself up to date with where you are at in the relationship. But before you can expand your sphere of influence, you have to analyze your sphere of influence. That is my advice to BNI members this week.
Well great. I think I may have a question for you. I know that one of the ways that you can expand your sphere of influence is to increase the number of friends and family that you might be sending information to or calling on a regular basis. Sometimes it gets a little awkward, and I hesitate to market to somebody that I consider a personal friend because I don’t want them to feel that I am using them in any kind of way. And yet, I think it’s really valuable connection because it’s not really them that you are marketing to. You just kind of want them to know about your business. So how do you advise us on that?
And family members, right?
Family members especially.
People say that and then they find out that one of their family members, a neighbor or a close friend ends up buying a product or service from somebody else when you provide that product or service. You are very frustrated, like why didn’t you get that from me? A lot of people say they didn’t know you did that. So you have that fine line to address.
I never recommend to be pushy with people- friends, family, anybody. So you don’t want to do that, but you do want to let people know what you are doing. Your friends have a personal interest in you, and your family- at least the ones you like- have an interest in you. You may not like all of your family members. You know, the ones that you have a relationship with.
I remember this happened about a year ago. A BNI member came up to me and she said, “I got a phone call from another BNI member who said he had a great referral. A client of his was at his office right now. It was a woman and he wanted to bring her by because his office was just a few blocks away. I said, ‘Yeah, bring her on by.’ It was a referral, and I’d love to meet her.”
So it was a financial planner and the person who had the referral was an attorney. The attorney brought the referral over to the financial planner’s office. When she walked in the office, the two women looked at each other and they were like, oh my goodness! It’s you! They were cousins. The attorney’s referral was the financial planner’s cousin.
The financial planner was like, you didn’t know what I did? The cousin was like, I had no idea you were a financial planner. She said to me when we spoke, “Ivan, you have to tell people that you can’t miss the idea of talking to family, especially family that you have a good relationship with. They have to know what you do.”
What if he would have taken her to another financial planner and she would have done business with somebody else? She said, “I would have been devastated if my cousin had gone to someone else, knowing that I could provide this service.”
I think it is important that you do that, and there are tactful was to do that. What I was just suggesting is that you invite these people to business organizations that you belong to, whether it be BNI, a chamber of commerce, maybe it’s a professional association that you belong to. It’s a great way for them to see you in another context.
I remember my cousins. I was the youngest in the family, really- one of the youngest. Most of my cousins were older than me. You know, I was a kid. When I became a business consultant and I started running BNI, my cousins were older than me. I was still a kid even though I was in my late 20’s. It took a little time before they started to take me seriously as a business professional. The way that I got them to take me seriously was by inviting them to organizations that I belonged to and eventually to BNI. It was great for them to see me in a different context. I wasn’t that kid in shorts and flip flops running around the yard.
Okay. That sounds like a good idea.
I think it is. Remember, the more people you network with, the greater your sphere of influence will be. So sit down, really evaluate your database and figure out where you are in the VCP process, as an important element of that. That is my message for this week.
That’s a great message. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Priscilla.
All right. I would 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.