Oct 27

by Ivan R. Misner, Ph.D & Douglas C. Means

When it comes to business networking, you never know who people know. One of the important keys to being successful at building a powerful personal network is diversity.

Working within BNI – the world’s largest business networking organization – for a combined total, between the two of us, for nearly 30 years now, people often mention to us that they would prefer to network exclusively with other business professionals who work with clients in a similar socio-economic target market, or in other words, network with business professionals with similar clients. Although it is good to include these people in your personal network, any attempt to network with them exclusively would be a tremendous mistake.

It is human nature to congregate with people that are very much like us. People tend to cluster together based on education, age, race, professional status, etc.. The bottom line is that we tend to hang out with people who have similar experiences or perspectives as ours. Most of our friends and associates are often friends and associates with each other as well. The problem with this is that when we surround ourselves with people who have similar contacts, it may be difficult to make connections with new people or companies with whom we desire to do business.

A diverse personal network enables you to increase the possibility of including connectors, “links” or “linchpins” in your network. Linchpins are people who in some way cross over between two or more clusters or groups of individuals. In effect, they have overlapping interests or contacts that allow them to link groups of people together easily.

When it comes to networking, diversity is key because it allows us to locate these connectors, links or linchpins between clusters of people. Connectors are the gateways to other people. They create shortcuts across groups.

The best way to increase the number of linchpins in your network is to develop a diverse network – not a homogeneous one.

Having now developed over 5,000 BNI networking groups in more than 37 countries around the world, we can categorically state that by our observation the strongest networking groups that exist are generally ones that are diverse in many, many ways. The more diverse the network, the more likely it will include overlapping connectors or linchpins that link people together in ways they would have never imagined.

One of the problems in understanding this concept is a somewhat built-in bias that many people have about networking with individuals that are outside their normal frame of reference. Here’s an example to pass along – BNI Director Patti Salvucci in Boston recently shared this amazing story.

Patti runs dozens of networking groups for BNI in the Boston area. She communicated that one of the groups she visited with met in a private meeting room at Fenway Park. She said that she arrived a little early to the meeting one week and noticed an older gentleman setting up coffee mugs in preparation for the meeting. Well, anyone knowing Patti knows that she is a master networker and so she struck up a conversation with the man while waiting for members to arrive. In talking to him, she was really taken by the amazing tenor of his voice. She mentioned to him that he had an incredible voice and asked what he did before this. The gentleman informed her that he used to be a commentator for CNN! He went on to tell her that in his later years, he wanted to work in a less hectic job as well as live closer to his daughter. He decided to take on the job of managing the owner’s suite at Fenway Park in Boston because it gave him an opportunity to be close to his family while having a less hectic career later in life.

Patti asked him about some of the people that he met during his time in broadcasting. He shared many great stories with her including an interview that he had done with JKF a week before he was assassinated. He also talked about meeting Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela during his career. It was an interesting conversation that she genuinely enjoyed.

Later when the meeting was in full swing, one of the regular members, Don, publicly mentioned that he would really like to do a radio talk show someday and was looking for some contacts that could help him pursue this dream. After the meeting, Patti asked Don… “Do you see that guy over there (pointing to the ex-CNN commentator)? Have you seen him before?” “Yea,” said Don, “he’s the guy who sets up the coffee for our meeting.” Patti said to Don, “did you know that he used to be a broadcaster for CNN? Don said, “Oh my God, I had no idea!!!” Patti suggested that Don introduce himself and learn a little about the man he’s seen every week for the last several months because he may very well be able to make a connection for him in the broadcasting industry.

The irony in this story is that he had seen the man on many occasions but had not struck up a conversation with him because he felt that they had little, if anything, in common. The truth is, when it comes to networking – not having a lot in common with someone may mean that they can be a connector for you to a whole world of people that you might not otherwise be able to meet.

Some of the strongest networking groups are those that are diverse in many ways. They have a good mix of members based not only on race and gender, but also based on profession, age, education, and experience. The more diverse your network the more likely you are to make overlapping linkages between clusters of people. The more linkages you can make between clusters of people the stronger your network can be.

If you wish to build a powerful personal network – branch out. Build a diverse network of professional contacts that include people that don’t look like you, sound like you, speak like you, or have your background, education, or history. The only thing that they should have in common with you and the other people in your network – is that they should be really good at what they do. Create a personal network like that, and you’ll have a network that can help you succeed at anything.

Dr. Ivan Misner is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization, which has more than 5,000 chapters in 37 countries. Dr. Misner is also the author of several books, including the most recent addition to the bestselling Masters Series—Masters of Sales (www.mastersbooks.com), and the New York Times bestseller TRUTH OR DELUSION? (www.truthordelusion.com); and he is the Senior Partner for the Referral Institute (www.referralinstitute.com), a referral training company with operations around the world.

Doug Means, a Director for BNI in San Diego – and member since 2002 – works directly with the Leadership Teams of 10 BNI chapters in San Diego County, and provides monthly educational training for chapter members in support of their success through networking and word-of-mouth marketing.  Since 2005 Doug’s organized the meetings for the San Diego Entrepreneur Meetup Group, the San Diego Small Business Meetup Group, and the San Diego Network Marketing Meetup Group – including hosting the most popular monthly speed networking events held in San Diego.  Since May of 2008, Doug has also facilitated San Diego-area networking lunch events hosted by Mid-Atlantic Networking.

Sep 20

by Ivan R. Misner, Ph.D & Douglas C. Means

Do you suffer from “Butterfly-itis” at the very mention of networking at business functions? If you answered yes, you are not alone! Many of us as human beings – let alone business people and entrepreneurs – get a bit uncomfortable when it comes right down to walking up to someone and starting a conversation. Many others are concerned about getting effective results from the time they spend networking. The process doesn’t have to be traumatic, scary, or a waste of time. When done properly, it can truly make a difference in the amount of business your company generates. With the right approach, you can use it to build a wealth of resources and contacts that will help to make your business very successful.

Use the following 10 Commandments to help you network your way through your next business networking event:

  1. Have the tools to network with you at all times.
  2. These include an informative name badge, business cards, brochures about your business, and a pocket-sized business card file containing cards of other professionals whom you can refer.

  3. Set a goal for the number of people you’ll meet.
  4. Identify a reachable goal based on attendance and the type of group. If you feel inspired, set a goal to meet fifteen to twenty people and make sure you get all their cards. If you don’t feel so hot, shoot for less. In either case, don’t leave until you’ve met your goal.

  5. Act like a host, not a guest.
  6. A host is expected to do things for others, while a guest sits back and relaxes. Volunteer to help greet people. If you see visitors sitting, introduce yourself and ask if they would like to meet others. Act as a conduit.

  7. Listen and ask questions.
  8. Remember that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately. After you’ve learned what another person does, tell them what you do. Be specific, but brief. Don’t assume they know your business.

  9. Don’t try to close a deal.
  10. These events are not meant to be a vehicle to hit on business people to buy your products or services. Networking is about developing relationships with other professionals. Meeting people at events should be the beginning of that process, not the end of it.

  11. Give referrals whenever possible.
  12. The best networkers believe in the “givers gain” philosophy (what goes around, comes around). If I help you, you’ll be compelled to help me and we’ll both benefit as a result of it. In other words, if you don’t genuinely attempt to help the people you meet, then you are not networking effectively. If you can’t give someone a bona fide referral, try to offer some information that might be of interest to them (such as details about an upcoming event).

  13. Exchange business cards.
  14. Ask each person you meet for two cards – one to pass on to someone else and one to keep. This sets the stage for networking to happen.

  15. Manage your time efficiently.
  16. Spend ten minutes or less with each person you meet and don’t linger with friends or associates. If your goal is to meet a given number of people, be careful not to spend too much time with any one person. When you meet someone interesting with whom you’d like to speak further, set up an appointment for a later date.

  17. Write notes on the backs of business cards you collect.
  18. Record anything you think may be useful in remembering each person more clearly. This will come in handy when you follow up on each contact.

  19. Follow up!
  20. Yes, #10 (not 0).  You can obey the previous nine commandments religiously, but if you don’t follow up effectively, you will have wasted your time. Drop a note or give a call to each person you’ve met. Be sure to fulfill any promises you’ve made.

Dr. Ivan Misner is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization, which has more than 5,000 chapters in 37 countries. Dr. Misner is also the author of several books, including the most recent addition to the bestselling Masters Series—Masters of Sales (www.mastersbooks.com), and the New York Times bestseller TRUTH OR DELUSION? (www.truthordelusion.com); and he is the Senior Partner for the Referral Institute (www.referralinstitute.com), a referral training company with operations around the world.

Doug Means, a Director for BNI in San Diego – and member since 2002 – works directly with the Leadership Teams of 10 BNI chapters in San Diego County, and provides monthly educational training for chapter members in support of their success through networking and word-of-mouth marketing.  Since 2005 Doug’s organized the meetings for the San Diego Entrepreneur Meetup Group, the San Diego Small Business Meetup Group, and the San Diego Network Marketing Meetup Group – including hosting the most popular monthly speed networking events held in San Diego.  Since May of 2008, Doug has also facilitated San Diego-area networking lunch events hosted by Mid-Atlantic Networking.

Sep 12

While our interest in business networking is just that – about business – the most successful networkers know that their achievements are first and foremost tied to their abilities and skills at developing personal relationships with others. Success through word-of-mouth marketing is very personal.

For many of us, developing relationships with others in ways that will be successful in growing our businesses through word-of-mouth isn’t something we were taught by our parents, or in school.  And also for many of us, it’s makes us feel very uncomfortable.

I’ll be addressing some of these topics – as well as sharing networking best practices, and announcing local face-to-face networking opportunities around San Diego, right here on the San Diego Networking blog.

I’m looking forward to sharing information and marketing opportunities here going forward.  Hope you’ll find the information of value, will bookmark the site, and return often.

Regards,

Doug Means
San Diego, CA