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A mini dive into Business Networking:

What makes a great Business Networking group?

If you do the research, you will discover that the keyword phrase “Business Networking” is searched on Google, Yahoo, Bing and elsewhere a total of 2,900 times a month by those in the U.S. alone. And that is just one of many related keyword searches.

It only took a few clicks of my mouse pad to uncover that Networking Groups, Networking Events, Business Events and minor alterations of all 4 of these keyword phrases that have an extension of either “near me” or “in Tampa(and other locales), dramatically increased the number of those who want or need more business.

By my estimates, approximately 100,000 business owners or salespeople conduct such searches online every month to find people that may become clients, customers, patients, fans or followers/recruits!

What does this mean? Simple.

The sheer number of business people querying the search engines with one phrase or another to seek to mingle online or offline with other business people proves beyond doubt that many entrepreneurs and salespeople are hungry for prospects.

Now, when I speak of “hunger,” I am not just referring to ambition but also the other primary motivator; Desperation!

We need to keep this firmly in our minds, as it is a massive clue as to how to promote our businesses and find what we need. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Motivation due to Desperation is what you might call a “needs must” reality. In other words, entrepreneurs are all too often short on profit and thus willing to do just about anything to scare up more business!

Clearly, it is a vast market and a huge opportunity to get new business.

If you spend a moment thinking it over, you soon realize the market is much large than my estimate. Why? Because the number of search engine queries does not include those who simply ask the people they know to find out what is happening locally. Nor do those numbers include those who join their local Chamber of Commerce or BNI group (or both).

Business Networking Groups

Of course, there are other organized Business Networking groups, not just BNI. And, there are local groups that ambitious entrepreneurs start on their own (I have done this), not to mention other types of groups, such as those that are set up to practise public speaking and gathering of those who are in the business start-up phase. So, when I say the numbers are staggering, it is not an exaggeration at all.

It would be impossible to speculate as to the size of the market of business people who need networking (or something) to sustain their income, especially in tough economic times. Whatever that number of motivated business people is, they come from the approximately 12 million North American businesses and many more ,millions of salespeople. 

Then there is Europe, South Africa, Australia and other countries with the same fundamental problem. But how can we solve this problem and increase our own business too? Great question.

Just this morning, I was the fly-on-the-wall listening to a BNI session of a successful chapter in Toronto, as my significant other is a member. And I picked up several interesting tidbits by listening, some of which will make it into another post, but one applies to this topic.

A member of this BNI chapter was saying that they separate themselves from all other Business Networking groups by the mere fact that they “track everything” to provide numbers, such as the total monthly and yearly amoint of referred business.

Now, I am into stats and research, or I would not know about the numbers of Business Networking searches, but I could not help but think that tracking is NOT what makes specific chapters of BNI uber successful. And, if that is not the key to a quality networking group, what is?

The truth about Business Networking

The truth about Business Networking is encapsulated in one of the slogans used in Allied Entrepreneurs™; entrepreneurship is a team sport, which is a clue to a robust and profound principle in business.

In fact, once you truly get this, you will begin to think that the best allies any entrepreneur can have are other entrepreneurs who get it. So, I must say sorry to those who believe BNI chapters stand out due to bean counting, as the key is relationship building and the quality of the people in that group.

One-to-one referrals come from networking, but by comparison, joint ventures are the paradigm shift most business owners never even dreamed of!

All of the many Business Networking groups have the same types of people involved.  There are the lonely, who prefer the energy of other entrepreneurs to other social groups, and; those who have the me-first focus (namely looking for prospects but with any or much reciprocating in terms of referrals), and; those who help others, referring business to them and sharing the secrets of how joint ventures and advanced marketing techniques work.

Of course, there is a 4th but much rarer type in Networking Groups; they are the ones who don’t need the group. But I will get back to them in a moment.

The challenge with the three groups above is the lack of knowledge. If everyone knew that other entrepreneurs were a terrific source of all kinds of ways to get new business, would they only be out for themselves in Business Networking meetings? Not unless they are brain-dead, right?

Would some people have an aha moment and adopt a new mindset toward giving and collaboration? If they don’t, they will not do as well as those with the right mindset and intent.

This is the paradigm shift.

With the right intent, you help others first. The payback is that sharp people in the 4th group see that and begin reaching out to you!

That 4th group and some of the 3rd group know you are a longer-term thinker and willing to do what it takes; that is when they start offering joint ventures with you, as well as investing time in you to understand how they work.

These are the people you hope you get to know.

To oversimplify this a bit: you can seek to sell every member and be seen as a taker, or you can be open to more. It is your call.

Now I am not saying that we should discount the participation of those who occasionally refer business, as we love those types of people in Business Networking. However, you can get 100 new clients in the same time as one with the assistance of someone who truly knows joint ventures.

However, you must be open to proving yourself and building rapport with people to get this kind of payback.

By the way, I mentioned that it is wise to HELP others with less experience, and that’s why we are a “team sport.” Of course, by help, in most cases, we are talking about referring new business to other members, but sometimes it is sharing idealogy in your chosen field.

Once you are of service to others, only then might you expect to get back far than you ever envisioned as possible, like through joint ventures.

For this to work as well as it can, the key is to be part of a successful group. So what makes a group successful? That is a multi-million dollar question.

Let me tell a story before I try to make this point.

To set the story up, I must say that any statement like “tracking everything” to claim that one Business Networking group is superior to another makes me smile. Why? Because a billionaire at a business event my significant other attended, after hearing someone make a claim, leaned forward and said rather emphatically:

“I call bullshit!” 

So, I guess I call bullshit too because the key isn’t stats at all. It is the people you associate with!

If you are allied with a great group of entrepreneurs, you are indeed in the position you want to be in. And that is why BNI is not a superior Business Networking group and only some BNI chapters are uber-successful. It is about the people.

Are the founder(s) and leaders in your Business Networking group acting with the right intent? Are they attracting the correct type of people? Are they unwilling to put up with rude behaviour within the group meetings? Do they put a stop to people who shotgun the member list with offers? And do they know the inner workings of joint ventures?

Do the key members speak knowledgeably about what the right ideology is? Do they know that it is better to give to get? Will they put in the effort needed to help you and others?

In short, is there a culture of helping and giving within the group? What percentage of the member are leaders versus those who are just there because they are lonely business owners or what many call takers (that are not givers??

Uber Successful Business Networking groups

Business Networking groups need to be made up of a significant percentage of people who believe in a similar ideology. These leaders must be clear that giving is the path to getting and that taking without an intent to reciprocate sticks is unfair and thoughtless.

Takers rarely do well in Business Networking groups because the ones who are givers are also usually sharp indeed. They spot those there to ‘take’ as if they stick out like a sore thumb and shy away from them. Why? Because they won’t get much, if anything, from investing in such a relationship.

You can think of it this way;

If I refer new business to someone who is a taker, what expectation have I that I may get back referred business? Little to none, right? In addition, because they are shortsighted, takers rarely know the inner workings of joint ventures; they’re too busy pileaging to learn from those who are wiser and more experienced than they are.

So part of success in a Business Networking group is the commitment of group members to connect the people they meet to members of their group. In other words, you refer some new business to the other members. And, you refer new members too.

The success of local and regional or national Business Networking groups and events comes down to their leadership. It’s the people that make it work, not the stats!

Leadership in Business Networking

You cannot dissociate the need for improved ideology and personal development from being a leader. It is impossible to lead well without better ideas (you have to give to get, etc.), and it is equally as tough to do well in a group devoid of enough business leadership. 

Now, let me ask you, have you ever met a business leader that was not well-rounded? Usually, they speak well, connect well with others, like people, and have the kind of intent that appears to give more than they get.

Appearances are misleading, though, as they get back more than they appear to give!

Yes, leadership is the key. If you now add better ideas and a commitment to help others first, your business networking effort will be “win, win, win!”

By win, win, win, I mean good for others, good for you and the group.

Those who show up and say they are only there for business networking are the ones who usually need to work harder on themselves than others. And this is quickly apparent to those who are battle harden entrepreneurs.

Think of it this way; would you ever hear a leader say, “I am only here for the networking” .. ??

A leader would give away the fact that they are not interested in learning better ways and better ideas. They are listening intently and taking notes when an informative featured speaker does an 8-minute bit before the break-out sessions.

Leaders not only want to learn, but they also do not want to be seen as closed to new ideas!

Leaders are sponges (students of business success) and givers. They are not just confident but back it up with skills. Their commitment is evident, and because they pay attention, it does not take long for others to discover they are leaders.

Be honest; do you naturally gravitate toward those who are not leaders or are you attracted to those who are? 

Leaders are never seen as one-trick or two-trick ponies and would not want to be seen as one who is not or does not commit to helping the group!

Successful Business Networking groups not only have strong founders or pod leaders but many members that are leaders. And this mix of leaders versus non-leaders must at least match the 80/20 rule.

If all of these things are not present, being a member of a group might result in friendship but be more or less a waste of your time!

Inviting Entrepreneurs

When others see you doing well, they want to be involved.

This is a blessing and a curse. After all, sometimes you end up attracting members who are less than desirable and it can be challenging working through such occasional issues.

Does the wrong type of person fit into the 80%? No, they simply don’t fit at all. And, fortunately, they don’t show up often.

We are looking for 80/20 (20% leaders), but if the mix of the group is 95/5 (5 leaders to 95 non-leaders), there is a problem. And what the members need to do to have a successful Business Networking group is keep inviting people until the right type of entrepreneurs (the ones that do contribute) show up.

Now, this takes some effort, but it is beyond worth it.

By inviting the kind of entrepreneurs and salespeople who both refer business to others and find new members, 20% or more being leaders, you accomplish a lot of things, such as:

  1. The group grows, and;
  2. You prove to the other leaders that you are a leader too (through referrals and attracting other leaders), and;
  3. You will get out of the group not what you put in but more than you can imagine!

You can be great at Business Networking

Those who show up just to meet prospects don’t __________.

Now let’s fill in the blank. What don’t they get from showing up with a me-first focus and attitude?

There are several right answers to this question, as I am sure you will agree. But before we crack into some of them, let me share a story:

One person recently told one of the founders of Allied Entrepreneurs™ during a public event something like “that should all be sent via email!”

Excuse me?

In other words, the founders of Allied Entrepreneurs™ should not be at liberty during the soft launch of this awesome Business Networking group to share what is so distinct and unique about the group. Umm .. !?!

Would a true leader do this? Not a chance. They simply aren’t ignorant.

This example was a case where someone who was clearly the wrong type of person for Business Networking found their way into the group. As one of the group’s founders, I can tell you that I have the opposite of a desire to do any type of business with such a person and that is stating the obvious.

As I said before, this is rare, but I digress. Let’s get back to filling in the blank with a word or phrase.

If you set a goal for yourself of not only looking for referrals in a Business Networking group but also learning from other entrepreneurs and applying what you end up absorbing by ‘osmosis’, would you will you see benefits later?

Maybe Jim Rohn answered this the best when he suggested:

If you want to attract more, you must become more attractive!

So, to get more out of Business Networking, follow Jim’s suggestion and become a more attractive business person and leader, which means being more well-rounded, more skilled, more compassionate and so on.

On Facebook, I occasionally contribute to a group that uses a website page builder called Elementor. I posted an offer to help others after quite a few people complained that their sites had trouble due to the update of that plugin (WordPress software). I knew that the tech staff were likely overwhelmed, so I thought I might help 1 or 2 people sort out a critical website issue (and build rapport with them). Guess that happened?

A smart alec who unfortunately hurt himself with his actions jumped on the offer I made in my thread and chastised me for it. Think about that for a moment.

Whatever this person thought was wrong with what I did, I had the right intent/did it for the right reasons. And my reward? He tried to make me look bad (and may even have thought I should loo bad)!

Sometimes such things make you feel that no good deed goes unpunished. But there is a bigger lesson here, that can be expressed in a question:

Would you invite that person into your Business Networking group? I hope not.

In this case, that person wanted to make me look bad because he thought I was preying in his fishing pond. That I would pick up clients rather than him.

I was cutting him off from the gravy, I guess. Now, if he had stopped for a second he would have realized that I could only handle a small number of people and when I got too busy, he would not have me as competition!

Poor ideology, a me-first or taker type of mentality. Clearly, he is someone who has some growing up to do, and I don’t want the job of helping him as his mentor. 

Recognizing those Business Networkers  who are worthy of approaching

Takers come in many forms. Some are wolves in sheep’s clothing but, in time, they are actually easy to spot.

That is why savvy leaders wait for a while before truly engaging newer members. They want to see what they do first!

If they are approached by someone who is newer in the group, they are not quick to buy or do a joint venture. They continue with the feeling-out process.

In some Business Networking groups, they vet new members. But wise experienced leaders do not just accept such vetting, they still size up those new members, at least for a while.

I initially thought the vetting process was a waste of time if leaders still wait to see what newbies do first, and I still feel that way. Vetting as a requirement is expensive in terms of time and more or less superficial. You still don’t know if they will contribute to the group just because they could act personable during the vetting process or produce testimonials, do you?

Anyway, to be great at Business Networking you need to be careful, and consistent as well as never be in a rush. Way more than enough will come out of it to make it more than worth your while, so take it easy. And play it smart.

Others are also looking for members of the group that have great qualities. Easy-going people with skills who show patience and that is how they know they’ve found someone who is more apt to be able to pull off a joint venture than not.

Now, before you approach any member, realize that your intent is transparent. It is all about the way you approach them or interact with someone who approached you.

If you forget that you could end up being their customer, you will have a mentality that is a one-way street. And this is far from good.

I always approach one-on-ones with other members as having five possible outcomes:

  1. I might make a new friend.
  2. I might be an ideal customer for this person.
  3. I might find someone who could pull off a joint venture campaign or vice versa (or both).
  4. I might be able to refer them business if I am impressed with them.
  5. They might be impressed by me and refer me some new business or 4 and 5.

If you are not open to all 5 of these outcomes, why start? My advice would be to run ads or do cold calls to find new business.

If you are not potentially up for it all, someone like myself will pick up that you show no interest in reciprocating and spread that to the other serious members – the ones I referred to as leaders.

RECAP on Business Networking

Intent (The you first approach, not a focus on me first) and a Commitment to bring in members, is the only way to truly succeed with Business Networking.

If you add the desire to learn marketing and joint venture concepts so you can show those who know how already that you get it and you could have the world by the tail if there is the right mix of leaders in the group.

Business Networking is fun but not if you do not know that there is a game within the game.

Do you really want to be the one others tolerate or would you rather be the one others want to meet one-on-one to see what the two of you can do together or help each other with?

Remember, being an entrepreneur is a team sport!

Best of luck to you.

One Response

  1. It’s often not who you know -it’s who THEY know that you don’t….You never know where a random contact might lead. Motto -ABN ..Always be networking.

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