Networking is About Training a Sales Force, Not Closing a Sale – Dr. Ivan Misner

Networking groups can definitely help businesses generate referrals.  However, I have talked to many people who say to me that despite the fact that they are giving business FOR other members of their networking group, they are not getting business FROM other members of their group. For those of you who want to get more business from the networking groups you belong to, keep this in mind: When attending referral-related networking groups remember that your efforts should be focused more on training a sales force than on trying to “close a sale”.

In other words, if you want to get business FROM the fellow members of your networking group, it is key that you EDUCATE these people about some of the specifics of your business and what to look for in order to refer you effectively. If you were training a sales force what would you say in this training process?  How would you describe your product or service to your salespeople that would enable them to fully understand the benefits of what you have to offer?  This is what you should be doing at a networking meeting.

The only way people can pass referrals to you is by getting to know about your business AND about you. No one expects a referral group’s member to be an actual salesperson for all the other members; but, if you want referrals, the other members do need to be trained.  Thus, the way your introductions are done can substantially impact your results in generating referrals FROM other networking group members. I have personally seen people participate in referral groups who were in businesses so unusual that I didn’t think it was possible for them to do well; however, what I didn’t take into account was their personal commitment, attitude, and ability to teach people “how” to refer them.

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Three key points to consider for educating people in your networking groups to be your sales force:

1) Do not generalize when asking for referrals: I have heard hundreds of thousands of introductions at business networking events in my 35 years of running a business referral organization. When talking about the type of referrals they want, many people use the words “anyone,” “someone,” or “everyone.”  I don’t recommend it. Why?  Because it is too general. If you say you can help “anyone” who needs your service, it is so generic that it doesn’t stick in anybody’s brain. Remember, specific is terrific.

2) Bring support material with you when you are at your networking meetings: If you have something visual for members to view or take with them, you increase your chances of staying in their minds long after the day’s meeting. A flier about a product sale or a newsletter from your company is a good item to share.  You might also bring samples of a product that you carry in your store or place of business.

3) Break your business down into Lowest Common Denominators (LCD’s) when introducing yourself: We all thought we would be done with algebra when we graduated, didn’t we? Here is an example of how one discipline can be applied to another.  In networking, Lowest Common Denominators apply to business introductions when you focus each week on only one aspect of your business at your networking meetings.  In other words, you break your business down into very small pieces.  You may be tempted to use the laundry list approach:  listing all the areas of focus that your business covers.  I would submit to you that your fellow networkers will learn more about you a week to week if you explain a single aspect of your business at each meeting.

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I once saw the owner of a florist shop stand to give his introduction, holding a single red rose, wrapped in cellophane with a very thin stem.  He described the type of rose it was and how long it would bloom.  He then told his members he had just purchased it at the grocery store on his way to the meeting that morning.  After that, he reached under the table and pulled out another long-stemmed red rose, fully three times larger, with a huge redbud and a much thicker, green stem.  He proceeded to describe this rose, emphasizing that it would stay fresh and actually fully bloom and open up, lasting twice as long.   He held both by the bottom tip of the stems and waved them back and forth showing how thin the grocery store stem was as it swayed from side to side with each movement of his hand and how sturdy his rose was which didn’t budge at all.  With that, he announced that there was only a 3 cents difference in price between the two roses… his rose cost less!

This is a classic example of how to use an LCD when educating people about your business while at networking events.  The floral shop owner did not use general examples, he brought something to show, and he described it (and only it) in detail. If you want to get referrals from your networking efforts – remember to train your sales force using the three techniques above and you will see a noticeable difference in your results. 

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About the Author

Dr. Ivan Misner is the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization. Founded in 1985 the organization now has over 9,600 chapters throughout every populated continent of the world. Last year alone, BNI generated almost 12.3 million referrals resulting in $16.7 billion dollars worth of business for its members.

Dr. Misner’s Ph.D. is from the University of Southern California. He is a New York Times Bestselling author who has written 24 books including one of his latest books – Who’s in Your Room? He is also a columnist for and has been a university professor as well as a member of the Board of Trustees for the University of La Verne.

Called the “Father of Modern Networking” by CNN and one of the “Top Networking Experts” by Forbes, Dr. Misner is considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on business networking and has been a keynote speaker for major corporations and associations throughout the world. He has been featured in the L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, and New York. Times, as well as numerous TV and radio shows including CNN, the BBC and The Today Show on NBC.

Among his many awards, he has been named “Humanitarian of the Year” by the Red Cross and was recently the recipient of the John C. Maxwell Transformational Leadership Award. He is also proud to be the Co-Founder of the BNI Charitable Foundation. He and his wife, Elisabeth, are now “empty nesters” with three adult children Oh, and in his spare time!!! he is also an amateur magician and a black belt in karate.

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