by Lee Abraham
I’ll admit it. It took me a while to figure out this networking thing. Especially the value of meeting with other people face to face. Here’s the story. Way back in the mid ‘90s I was invited to join BNI (Business Network Int’l), a structured networking group to help grow my business. I was intrigued. And then I was told the group got together once a week to pass referrals.
At the time, I owned a Real Estate Appraisal company in Las Vegas and was busier than Ryan Seacrest on American Idol’s “Elimination Night.” Let’s just say I had my hands full with a few difficult and colorful authority figures (Loan Officers instead of judges) and other peoples’ desperate situations (Borrowers rather than contestants).
And although I had more work than I knew what to do with, I was changing my Target Market from the oppressive management style (“hit” the value or we stop sending you work) of the Banks and Mortgages Companies to the more intellectually rewarding practice of appraising for Lawyers and serving as an Expert Witness on a variety of Real Estate related lawsuits.
Bottom line: I needed help reaching out to the legal community to expand my client base. And the person who invited me to join BNI was one of the top Real Estate Attorneys in town. Can you say: mixed emotions? Yes, I liked the idea of networking, and I really wanted to build a relationship with this Attorney, but it was the once a week meeting that rubbed me the wrong way.
Admission of guilt: I didn’t see the point of getting together so often. After all, if I had something to say to someone in the group I could just call ‘em up and take care of business… right? Wrong! Motivated but under duress, I went through the motions. Guess what? The emotions followed. And so did the referrals!
Basic Etiquette 105 – Attendance at weekly networking meetings are critical to benefiting from a structured networking group.
Let’s face it, a lot of people expect to join a networking group, show up, tell the members about their business and then sit back and watch the referrals fly in. Sorry to burst your bubble, but success in networking requires time and energy. Why? Networking is all about relationships. Plain and simple. And nothing builds a relationship better than face to face interaction.
Your first goal in a structured networking group is to achieve Visibility: people know who you are and what you do. From Visibility you reach for Credibility: people know you are good at what you do. And finally, the ultimate goal is Profitability: people send you business because they like you, trust you, and know you will make them look good in the eyes of the person they referred to you.
Trust me, you will not achieve VCP with your networking partners by sitting in your office on the phone and internet all day. If you are serious about building a referral network to grow your business, you need to invest time and develop relationships getting to know, like and trust your networking partners. Oh yeah, they need to get to know, like and trust you as well!
Don’t have the time? Let me ask you this. If your very best client asked to meet with you once a week as a prerequisite to sending you an ongoing stream of business would you find time? I’m betting you would. Write this down: Treat your networking group as your best client and it will be!
Build a Bridge, Get Over It
OK fine, I hear you. You just can’t make every single meeting. From vacations and business trips to your child’s first Piano Recital and medical emergencies, life happens. Hey, get over it! Everybody’s got life happening, not just you. Like a wise man once said, “It’s not what happens in life that makes you successful, it’s how you respond.”
Let’s cut to the chase. We are talking about priorities and levels of commitment. Nobody expects you to be at every single meeting. That would be unrealistic. The answer? Find out next time with our discussion of having a substitute represent you at meetings you can’t attend, when our adventure in networking continues… Follow me on Twitter!