Being a part of a BNI chapter is a great way to grow your business and create strong referral relationships with other business professionals in the local community. People’s results from their BNI membership vary – and mostly depend on what they put into it. Here are some of the best practices I know to increase your BNI results.
The first essential step is to attend! Yes, there is an “attendance policy,” and for good reason. The more you are there, the more you will see and be seen, you will create more Visibility and awareness about who you are and what you offer. Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI, is a lover of stats and evaluating data. Through his years of tracking statistics of BNI membership, he has found that by missing one meeting, you cut your referral business in half for the entire month!
In order to earn referrals, you have to be referable. What does that mean? Well, think about what you would expect of the behavior of the people you were going to refer. Do they present themselves professionally? Are they reliable? Are they an expert at what they do? Are you those things in your business?
Showing up for a weekly meeting can be telling of someone’s true behaviors. If a member regularly shows up late, I’m going to wonder if they would be on time for an appointment to a client I referred to them. I know that many BNI members get 20-100% of their new business from BNI. Treat your meeting and fellow BNI members with the respect that contribution to your business’s bottom line deserves. Once you are a BNI member, everything you do inside and outside of a BNI meeting affects your referability.
Now that you are showing up and being referable, the next step is to contribute. Be an active participant. In order to receive referrals you must first give. It is “Givers Gain” after all. What do you contribute to the members on a regular basis? The number one contribution is a referral. A referral could be what we think of as a referral – connecting a member with an opportunity to talk about their business to someone in the market to buy their product or service, and the prospect is expecting the member’s call. Another referral would be a Visitor. I see the people who get the most out of being in BNI are also the biggest givers. I recommend a minimum of either one referral or one visitor every week.
What would you like to receive from the group? Double that in your giving.
Networking is all about building relationships. It’s not enough to just show up at a meeting every week. To truly build relationships that produce consistent referrals, you have to get to know people – actively. Networking is an important aspect of BNI, that is why it is built into every meeting agenda, the first 15 minutes of the meeting is open networking. Use it! You will also want to actively network with your fellow BNI members in one to ones, attending other business networking events together (like the chamber), supporting any of their events (workshops, ribbon cuttings), and attending the chapter hosted socials and mixers.
As soon as you can, volunteer to participate on the leadership team, or at least help out on a committee. A great place to start is the Visitor Host team or offer to give the Event Coordinator a hand for some of the activities they are planning. Taking an active role on the leadership team will build stronger relationships with the members that you work with on the leadership team. Serving in a leadership capacity also gives you more Visibility in the chapter. If you have a speaking slot in the weekly agenda, that’s extra face time. It also can build up your business credibility and demonstrate your expertise. The more you can show that you are referable, the more referrals you will earn.
Utilize the Resources
One of the benefits of being a member of the world’s largest referral organization is the number of resources available. Dr. Ivan Misner has written an impressive number of books on the subject of networking and referrals, and every chapter should have copies available for you to check out from their chapter library. Of course you will want to attend the Leadership Team Trainings held every March and September. As a new member you get to attend the Member Success Program, and as a member who sponsors new members, you will want to attend again with the person you sponsor. It’s amazing how much more you hear the 3rd and 4th time around.
There’s also SuccessNet, NetworkingNow, BNI Podcasts, and Dr. Misner’s site Business Networking. If you really want to cut to the chase and get a shortcut to the highest level of insight and how-to, take the Certified Networker® program from Referral Institute®. Dr. Ivan Misner founded The Referral Institute® to provide a higher level of knowledge, focus, and accountability for the business owners driven to build a solid and growing referral based business.
Educate the Group
When it comes to referral marketing, having an easily repeatable message is one of the top success factors that will contribute to more referrals. The easier you make it to refer you, the more likely people will do it. When you educate your BNI chapter members on what is a good referral for you, how to find you great referrals, and how to refer you, you want to be as specific as possible. You want to have clarity on your target market in order make it clear to your chapter members. You also want to give specific examples that bring the clients to life and have your chapter members actually have the image of a person pop into their head. You also want to help your chapter members understand how to start a conversation on your behalf, and other proactive ways they can refer you. What is your referral receiving process? How do you want someone to set up an appointment on your behalf (30 minute call, 1 hour in the office)? When your chapter members know more of your process and how to refer you from start to finish, the easier it is for them to refer you.
BNI is as good for your business as you want it to be. However, there is no magic; you will get out of it what you put into it.