A few years ago, Dr. Misner had a fundamental disagreement with a networking expert in Europe. This person believed that networking is a numbers game: that the quantity of people in your network matters more than the quality of people in your network.
Quantity is important, but networking is not so much a numbers game as a people puzzle, one that works by making connections between other people. You need to have a wide set of contacts, but your connections need to go deep. It’s not just who you know, but how well you know them. If you know your connections well enough to be able to call and ask for a favor–and get it–that is a powerful network. Quantity is good, but quality truly is king.
BNI works by building deep connections within a comparatively small group of people: the members of that chapter. Share your experiences with quality connections in the comments.
Brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube.
Complete Transcript of Episode 519 –
Hello everybody and welcome back to the Official BNI Podcast, brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube, which features Dr. Ivan Miser and many other networking experts. 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?
I am at my home in Austin, Texas. I am in my library overlooking Lake Austin. It is a beautiful day.
That sounds great.
So today I am going to talk about quantity versus quality. I have a story, I think that the listeners might be interested in. A few years ago, I had a really good conversation with a good friend who was really considered a networking expert in Europe. He did a lot of work with online networking or social networks.
During this conversation, we got into a fundamental disagreement on the subject of networking. He believed that networking was first and foremost a numbers game. He said the more people that you are connected to, the better your network. Now, at first, I went along with him. I agreed with him that the number of people in your network was in fact very important. I then said, though, that the only thing more important than the quantity of the people was the quality of the people in your network. Suddenly, our paths diverged. He said that the quality of the people in your network doesn’t make a difference and that it was a numbers game.
To this day, I steadfastly disagree with him. Networking isn’t a numbers game. It is more like a people puzzle. It is more about building relationships with the close people in your network. That means is is about finding ways to interconnect relationships you have to build a powerful personal network. Now, in order to do that, you actually have to have a fair number of relationships, so quantity is important. Don’t listen to this and say, “Yeah, Ivan says quantity isn’t important.”
Quantity is important but you have to go deep with many of those relationship and that is why I created an organization, BNI, where you could really go deep and build quality relationships within that sea of contacts that you have. So if your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you will never be successful. Instead, your network needs to be wide and, in places, deep. That means you need to have a wide set of contacts, but some of those need to be connections that really go deep so that the quality of your network is just as important, if not more important, than the quantity of your network.
Again, this doesn’t mean that quantity isn’t important. It is important. It just means that a small network of quality people actually limits your success. However, a large network with multiple quality relationships makes that a much more powerful personal network.
I look at the quantity versus quality thing as sort of your left hand and your right hand. Both are kind of really important, you know, but generally, one is stronger, more powerful and generally used more than the other. You can’t accomplish what you want easily without both. However, one is stronger. This is really similar in my mind to the quantity versus quality argument in networking.
I have said for decades that it is not what you know or who you know. You know the expression, Priscilla, it’s not what you know but who you know?
I disagree with that. I don’t think it’s what you know or who you know but how well you know each other that counts. Strong relationships take simple contact and. Turn them into powerful connections. It doesn’t really matter if I have an amazing database of people with many phone numbers. What really matters is if I can spoil up the phone, call that person, ask them for a favor. First, they will take my call. Ask them for a favor and they oils be willing to do the favor. That is what counts.
So people look at these great contact they have and they think they are great at networking, but in fact I would argue that they are not. By the way, since that argument that number of years ago, my friend is no longer in the networking business.
No, he is not. Quantity is good, but quality truly is king. What do you think, Priscilla?
I think you are so right about that. I really do.
You know, I think I understood this maybe in a less sophisticated way, but I understood it conceptually in 1985 when I started BNI. To me, it wasn’t just the number of people in my Rolodex- I will really date myself with Rolodex. For the millennials out there, you will have to Google it and take a look at the photograph of what a Rolodex is. It was my manual system for tracking my contact. It wasn’t just the number of people in the Rolodex. It was, you know, could I call these people and ask them for a favor? Would they be willing to do it? That is where the quality of the relationship is so important.
When I started BNI,it was about building relationships with a handful of people. A handful. 30, 40, 50. We have chapters now of 100.
But how many contacts do you have? According to most social scientists – Dunbar as an example- you can have over 1000 people, maybe 1500 people that you know, but how many do you know well? That is always what BNI was meant to be- to build a small cadre of people in your contacts that you know really, really well and you could pick up the phone and ask for a favor and they would be willing to do it for you.
Yeah. That is a good way to measure it.
I think so. Hey, listen, if you are listening to this podcast or reading the transcript, Iw oils love to hear your take on this concept of quality versus quantity. Whether you agree or disagree, I would love to hear your two cents on the matter. Post a comment here on BNIpodcast.com. I read every single post that gets put up here. I comment on some it I read every single one of them. So that is it for today, Priscilla, unless you have something else to add.
I don’t, Ivan. I think you covered it beautifully.
I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube. Thanks so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice and we look forward to having you join us next week for another exciting episode of the Official BNI Podcast.