For those of you who are entrepreneurs or work in sales, you may have heard about “BNI.” It’s a networking group that stands for “business networking international.” You can find more about the organization here. I am currently in a start-up BNI chapter here in Champaign, Illinois. You can learn more about chapters in Central Illinois here. I spoke last month during my chapter’s “Visitor’s Day” on the Top 10 Reasons Why to Give BNI a Try. This is an excerpt from that presentation.
1. As a professional, you are only as good as your next referral.
It’s very important to me as a professional that I’m able to be a good referral source for my clients. For example, I network with psychotherapists primarily because I want to have a strong referral list for clients who are struggling with a divorce or separation. It says a lot about the type of professional that you are when you are able to give quality referrals.
2. Social capital is real capital.
One of my favorite books is “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. The book made it abundantly clear that social capital has real worth that you can “cash in” when needed. BNI helps this long term social capital investment.
3. Helps you derive higher quality clients.
I have had a lot of amazing clients find me online … but I have also had some crazy clients find me online. Referrals from people that you know, like and trust can help ensure your client base has higher quality people.
4. It’s about quality, not quantity.
The real estate broker in my Manhattan BNI chapter had an excellent analogy about the Redwood Forest – The reason why the trees are able to grow so big and tall isn’t because the roots grow so deeply; to the contrary, it’s because the roots intertwine with the neighboring trees forming a strong root network underground supporting the forest.
BNI is much the same way. With the support of the fellow members, each person is able to grow their businesses “bigger” because of the strong support network.
5. It’s a “no joke commitment” but you also get “no joke” referrals.
BNI meets for 1.5 hours once a week and there are attendance rules (Uhhhhh). This turns a lot of people off; however, I have found that more lax groups that only meet 1X to 2X a month without attendance rules don’t work as well for members.
6. It helps sharpen your business skills.
We all join BNI to increase our businesses. Some members will join BNI and get discouraged if they don’t get referrals within the first 6 months or so. But if you ask them if their sales have gone up, the answer is usually “yes.” That is because BNI forces you to think about who a good referral for you each week is and has its members cleaning up its elevator speech. These types of activities helps BNI members increase their A-game in everything they do increasing sales (even if it isn’t directly coming from the members themselves).
7. Having quality people in “your room” elevates you as a professional.
The founder of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner, wrote a great book titled “Who’s In Your Room?” It’s a nice quick read highlighting how we are the company we keep.
8. Networking and referral marketing becomes part of your weekly routine.
I currently network each Tuesday from 11:30 to 1pm. I used to network each Tuesday night in New York City. BNI forces you to block out a time each week that is dedicated to referral marketing and networking.
9. What comes easy, won’t last – what lasts won’t come easy.
I’ve been on a weight loss journey over the last few years and have lost around 30 to 40 pounds. I came across this quote a few months ago and loved it — it applies to so many aspects of life, including referral marketing.
BNI isn’t a “quick fix” to business. If you’re looking for a one month, two month, three month uptick in business, BNI isn’t for you. But if you have longterm goals about your business and want to be around similarly minded individuals, BNI is a perfect fit.
10. It’s an international network.
BNI has thousands of chapters all over the globe. I have personally met BNI members from India and other parts of the world. As a BNI member, you can visit other BNI chapters in your community or other geographic region so long as their isn’t a conflict. It’s an excellent way to expand your network wherever you are.
So if business is passing you by.. try BNI! If you are in the Champaign-Urbana area and are interested in visiting my BNI chapter, please email me directly.