Ben in the United States asks whether it’s better to bring in someone who has no current relationship with others in the sphere, or bring in someone who is already somewhat of a referral partner.
Dr. Misner recommends that groups bring in new people that at least one member of the chapter knows and trusts well. Knowing new people is important; the only thing more important is knowing more about the people you already know.
In the early days of BNI, Dr. Misner experimented with inviting people who didn’t know each other to form new BNI chapters. Because there were very few existing relationships, it was difficult to get people to pass referrals in the beginning.
It’s good to invite people you know casually to visit a BNI meeting. It’s better to invite people you really know and have a relationship with. What’s best is to invite people you know, you trust, and are already referring business to.
Brought to you by Networking Now.
Complete Transcript of Episode 458 –
This is part of the Ask Ivan series. If you have a question for Ivan, email him at this address: [email protected]
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, California. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and the Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello, Ivan. How are you and where are you today?
Hi Priscilla. I am doing great and I just arrived in Milan, Italy for the Italian conference. I am really excited to be here because this is the first time that I have been to Italy for BNI. Growth here has been amazing. The members- I have met a few- are fantastic. The Directors here are great. So I am really excited to be in Italy for the first time.
That sounds wonderful. I wish I was with you.
Today, I will be talking about a question that was sent to me recently. It was a really good question. It was sent by Ben. Ben is from the United States.
Ben says, “I appreciate your expertise in business networking. I apply your knowledge everyday into my consulting business. Our chapter has a seat open in a critical sphere within the group. When thinking about filling the seat, I thought to myself is it better to bring in someone who has no current knowledge of others within the sphere, or bring in someone that is already somewhat of a referral partner and strengthen that relationship? When it comes to growing a client base, we are always told that it is more expensive and time consuming to find a new client than to take in an existing client and increasing revenue by offering additional value and services. How does that apply to referral partners? By the way, I don’t expect a personal reply but if you could shed some light on it-”
Ben, this is a personal reply. It’s on my podcast. Thanks for asking the question.
Let me tell you what I said to Ben in writing and then I am going to expand on it here in this podcast. I told him it is a very thoughtful question, one that I am actually rarely asked. When I started BNI in 1985, I invited people I knew and trusted. I wanted to go deeper in building a referral relationship with them.
I believe networking is really all about relationships. Therefore, if possible, Ben, I recommend that groups bring in people that at least one person knows and trusts well. If more people know them, that is even better. Knowing new people is important. The only thing more important is knowing more about the people you already know.
If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, it is not a strong network. Go deep in your relationships. Get to know this person. Let me expand on that a little bit more.
As I said, it is really all about relationships. Here is some stuff, Priscilla, that I have never shared on the podcast and most Directors don’t even know.
As we opened many groups after the first few, I got stuck. I was trying to help these chapters open. So I did something that was really bonehead. That is the technical term. Bonehead. For those of you who are not in North America and don’t know what that means, it was a stupid idea.
I bought chamber lists and I sent out letters, cold, to people we didn’t know. Here is the deal. We got a good turnout. We got a marginal signup. These people didn’t know me. They didn’t know anyone there. We got an okay sign up. But here is the real problem: the people who signed up didn’t know each other. As much you might expect, it was a really slow start to build referrals because there were very few, if any, existing relationships. Very few.
It felt like a good idea because we were able to launch a chapter and that was enough to put it over the top. Members did what they were supposed to do and invited people, but instead of getting the number they really needed to be successful with people they really knew and trusted- there were a lot of strengths, so on paper it looked like it would be a successful group. And in fact, it kicked off.
But in the long run, it was not a good idea because there were too many strains.
So where does good, better, best come in? Let me explain. Good, better, best.
It is good to invite people you meet at networking events. I am not sure it good to send cold letters, now today. In 1985, we did snail mail. Today, it is email.
Although, I know in many, many chapters, we are still sending out letters, which I highly recommend. But I recommend that you send letters to people you know or at least have met and there is some kind of a relationship.
So it is good to invite people that you either know casually or don’t know well. It is good to invite people that you meet at networking events, even if you don’t know them. That is good.
But what is better is to invite people you really know and have a bit of a relationship with. That is better. The more a chapter can do that, the more likely they are, if they are trying to kick off, to kick off with a successful chapter. If they are trying to grow their chapter, to grow it in a very healthy, sustainable way.
What is best is to invite people you know, you trust and you are currently referring but you want to improve on that- which is what I did when I started the first chapter. These were people I knew and trusted and not all of them, but many of them I had referred.
I really wanted to improve on that and the reason that chapter was successful was as much as humanly possible, I went with the best.
That is invite people you know, trust and are currently referring.
Good, better, best. Ben, that is the more thorough answer to your fantastic question. Good, better, best. Good- invite people you meet at networking events. People that you may not know well but if you know them at all, that is good. Better- invite people you know and have a bit of a relationship with. You recognize them. They would recognize you.
Best is invite people you know, trust and are currently referring but want to improve upon that. Good, better, best.
What are your thoughts, Priscilla?
Okay, so I do have a thought. Sometimes, if you are already referring work to somebody, they don’t see the value of joining the group because, you know, they have to show up every Thursday, have certain responsibilities, and it costs money. If you are already sending work to them, then they don’t see why they should go through the extra trouble of joining the group. Now, what do you say to that?
I am a little mercenary on that one. I would drop them in a heartbeat. The reason for that is I am all about doing business with people who do business with me. Chances are really good that if they have no interest in going to networks that you are involved in, they really have no loyalty to you. People who have a loyalty to you are people who are going to say, “Okay. If Priscilla is inviting me, then I should probably go because she is sending business my way.” And they will go.
I do business with people who do business with me. I have done that, not only can I say easily for the last 31 years. I did it before that. If people did business with me, if they worked with me, if they would trust me and follow some of my suggestions, then I wanted to do business with them.
When I invited them to BNI, I had this expectation that they would at least come and take a good look at it. If they didn’t, God bless them, best of luck, but I would rather do business with someone who is going to come and join and have that commitment to the process that I really believe in.
If you really believe in building relationships through a referral process, then you want to do business with other people who believe the same thing.
I never thought twice about it. I would drop people who didn’t participate in my own person networks of some kind. It might be BNI. It might be- I was a member of Rotary for many, many years. It might be my service club or some other organization, but certainly BNI. That’s my advice.
That is really good advice- especially good if you don’t really need that person and they can be easily replaced. But if you can’t, then you are a little bit stuck.
Yeah, well you know, the truth is anyone can be replaced. I don’t usually- P.T. Barnum. W P.T. Barnum once said, “The circus don’t close when some clown quits.” If somebody doesn’t want to play, they are replaceable. They really are. I think almost anybody is replaceable.
I remember once I had a member say to me, “Look Ivan, I am not going to refer business to the dentist here because I go to a dentist and he is fanstatic. I am just not going to refer business to the dentist.”
I remember saying to him, “Okay, I get it. You have this relationship.”
He said to me, “I am a little wussy boy when it comes to shots. I hate shots and this guy is pretty good, so I am going to go to my guy.”
I said, “Okay. Just do me one favor. If you ever have an opportunity to try the dentist here, give him a try because he is making a commitment to be here and support you.”
He said, “Fair enough. I will.”
A year later, he said to me, “I have switched dentists to our member.”
I said, “Okay. There is no way you were going to do it. What happened?”
He said, “I called my dentist. My dentist was on vacation. I had a cavity. It was horrible. I needed to go in right now. His office said they had a backup dentist who was there and I could come and see him. Well, if I am going to see the backup dentist, I might as well see the dentist in my chapter.”
By the way, that dentist is still a member today after 31 years. His name is Jim LaBriola. He is a dentist in Pasedina.
So he said, “I am going to go see Jim.” He went to see him, and he called me up and said, “Oh my goodness! I thought I had a great dentist. Jim is like way better than any dentist I have ever gone to. I thought he was great, but Jim really took care of me. He showed me around his operation. He gave the closest thing to a painless shot I ever had. I was hesitant to make the flip to Jim, and I am so glad I did today.”
So my point is there may be someone out there better, particularly someone who really cares about you enough to come to those meetings.
Great question. and Ben, thanks for asking that question. That is all I have for today.
Okay, thank you, Dr. Misner. 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.