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3.0 Networking Groups

Referral Education >> Each section contains key Action Items located within the downloadable Action Guide >> Click to Download Action Guide.

3.1    You can network anywhere, anytime, on any occasion—even at a funeral. Truth

There is no place that’s inappropriate for networking. But this is true only if you always remember and follow the number one rule: Honor the event.

For a master networker, networking is a lifestyle and it’s something that can be incorporated into everything that one does. But different events involve very different styles of networking. The process of networking at a chamber of commerce event is radically different from networking at a church social.

The first thing to understand is what we mean by “networking.”

There’s a common misperception that networking is simply using one’s connections to sell products or services. This is an understandable error and it arises because of the way some “networkers” seem to be constantly on the prowl for customers. This is the kind of networker most people can see coming a mile away and try hard to avoid meeting.

In our view, networking is a lifestyle, not a sales tool.  It’s all about relationships.

A true networker is one who constantly seeks to form new relationships and strengthen them by helping others solve problems and achieve goals. It’s not a totally unselfish lifestyle, of course; a networker knows that these relationships are two-way relationships that she can draw on to help achieve her own goals.

A master networker does not help others with the expectation that every person she helps will immediately reciprocate in kind.

One would never think of carrying on a business discussion with a networking partner at a solemn social event. However, the fact that you’re both attending the event means that you are strengthening the relationship and that makes your business networking relationship stronger over time. Everything you do to help another person strengthens your relationship.

Look for ways to help at every opportunity.

True networking is the process you use to develop relationships and build your social capital. Therefore, you network everywhere—but you do so most effectively by honoring the event.

ACTION ITEMS: Complete the Action Items in your Action Guide.

List the places where you currently network.

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What have you done in the past to help people in these networking environments?

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What can you do moving forward to help people in these networking environments?

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3.2     The more networking meetings you go to, the better. Delusion

Referral networking is more about farming than hunting. Running from one networking event to another looking for new relationships is like hunting, and what’s more, it’s a waste of time, money, and energy that you should be using to develop the relationships you’ve already started. It’s like running around knocking coconuts out of trees, when you should be planting coconut trees for the future.

When people come to the Referral Institute, we surprise them with one of the first things we tell them: Stop networking!

Stand still, look at what you have, prioritize it, database it, cull it, and then, rather than continue to work on only the “V” part of the VCP Process® (visibility, credibility, profitability—see Business by Referral by Misner and Davis), devote more time to the “C” and the “P.”

Credibility comes with a closer, deeper relationship, and profitability is the goal that can be maintained only through constant nurturing of that relationship for mutual benefit. It’s not “Nice to meet you, now I’ve got to go talk to someone over there,” it’s “How are you doing, and how can I help you achieve your goals?”

One reason that people feel compelled to “Network! Network! Network!” is that there aren’t very many sophisticated measurement systems that can tell you how successful a given referral tactic is in getting the results you want. For want of a better system, the instinct “more is better” takes hold, and off you go to yet another networking event. In actuality, all you’re doing is adding to your cold-prospecting opportunities and looking for that one big sale.

The only measurable result of this sort of activity is whether or not you make an immediate sale. It becomes a lottery; for every contact made, it’s a hit or, more often, a miss. The long-range success of relationship building is not measured, because it doesn’t happen. And yet, that’s the real objective of referral networking: you want to develop relationships that will serve as conduits to other customers.

The contact that counts, the one you turn into a referral connection by taking the time to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with, may never even buy your product or service. If your focus is the immediate sale, you’re going to miss a lot of future opportunities.

The truth is, you can go to too few networking meetings and you can go to too many.

If you are in a strong-contact referral group such as BNI (Business Network International), you’re probably required to show up at the weekly meeting. There’s a good reason for this, and it has to do with building and maintaining relationships with your referral partners in the group, keeping up with the different products and services they provide, and being there not only to receive referrals but to pass them on to your networking partners as well.

If you attend all of your required meetings and then proceed to spread yourself too thin by joining and attending a dozen other groups of various kinds, you’re quickly going to run out of quality time for your partners.

ACTION ITEMS: Complete the Action Items in your Action Guide.

Research at least two types of business networking organizations for each group below and select three total organizations in which you should be or are a member.

Casual Contact groups (Chamber of Commerce):

1) Use Google to search for: “Networking Group Dallas TX” or “Women’s Groups Dallas”

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Strong Contact Groups (BNI):

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Women’s Groups (e-Women):

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Service groups (Rotary):

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Online networks (Linked In):

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Professional associations (Industry Organizations):

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Social Business groups (MasterMind):

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Schedule time on your calendar when you will be attending networking events for the three networking groups you are involved in or will be participating in over the next year.

Will that frequency be enough to drive your relationships from Visibility to Credibility to Profitability?  Your efforts here will make a great impact on your business.

3.3     The larger the networking group, the more referrals it will generate. Truth

Even a blind squirrel can find a nut, if you fill the room with enough nuts.

True, that is, within each type of referral group.

Among strong-contact referral groups, such as BNI, studies have consistently shown that a group with 40 members will typically generate more referrals per member than one with 25 members. Among casual-contact networks like chambers of commerce, a 200-member group will probably generate more referrals than a 100-member group.

This does not imply, however, that a 100-member chamber of commerce will pass more referrals than a 40-member referral networking organization. The strong-contact group is focused primarily on generating referrals for its members and structured in such a way that time for passing information and referrals is built into each meeting and that members are accountable for generating referrals.

A chamber of commerce will offer plenty of opportunities to pass referrals, even some special committees that can serve as a sort of strong-contact referral group, but in general it is not structured to focus on this as a primary activity. Instead, it is part information network, part service organization and part referral group.

Bear in mind that a master networker does not exclusively need a highly structured organization in order to generate and receive referrals; she can do this in almost any setting because she has highly developed relationship skills.

She constantly looks for ways to help or benefit her networking partners and she has developed a reputation as someone who can get things done, no matter what the organization or situation.

For her, a casual-contact group can serve as well as a strong-contact group—perhaps better, because there are more possible connections in a larger group, whether it is structured to make those connections automatically or not.

A master networker carries her entire network with her at all times and can make connections that benefit people in different industries, interest groups, and geographic areas who would probably never have heard of each other without her help.

ACTION ITEMS: Complete the Action Items in your Action Guide.

To answer the items below, contact the President or Membership Director of each group.

Find out today what the current membership size is for each of the business networking groups you selected.

1)      Membership size:

2)      Membership size:

3)      Membership size:

What is the goal for membership growth in each organization?

1)          Membership goal:

2)          Membership goal:

3)          Membership goal:

What is the growth strategy for each group?

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How can and will you participate in the growth of these organizations?

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3.4     The majority of business professionals that get involved in referral groups are seasoned, established individuals. Truth

Absolutely true. A lot of people assume it’s the young and the hungry that join referral groups, but the studies don’t support that. Ages range from the 20s through the 60s, with the average being 42. Experience in business averages close to 10 years, well beyond the five-year “survival” milestone. It’s mostly the seasoned business professional that seeks out the long-term benefits of a referral marketing strategy.

In any good networking organization, groups tend to select more experienced people over younger ones because they know that seasoned professionals are more likely to bring in an established network. They are also more likely to be good referrals because experienced people are typically better at what they do for a living. An experienced referral is more likely to work out well and reflect favorably on the person providing the referral.

Note, however, that a good networking group should seek a balance between old pros and sharp, young newcomers. Groups with only seasoned people can be too laid back and too easygoing, because most of their members are no longer in the startup phase when every new prospect is perceived as the one that can make or break their business.

Furthermore, a group made up mostly of new people, however, tends to be too frenetic, too hungry.  So, look for networking groups that have a balanced membership.

ACTION ITEMS: Complete the Action Items in your Action Guide.

Does each of your networking groups have a healthy mix of seasoned and new business owners? List your group and think about the answer.

1)       Yes / No – What can be done?

2)       Yes / No – What can be done?

3)       Yes / No – What can be done?

Do you need to redirect your recruiting focus in any of your groups?

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List five business professionals that you will invite to your next networking functions.

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Schedule on your calendar to contact each individual personally and tell them you would like to introduce them to someone in your club.  Invite them and make it happen!

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