The Wonder of 1-to-1’s

What is the secret to the success of top BNI networkers? It is always easier to give and receive referrals when they attend regular, frequent 1-to-1 meetings. The problem is, unless the process of booking and attending 1-to-1s is handled systematically and consistently, it tends to take a lot of time and effort.

Today, I want to share my method of keeping an aggressive, time-saving 1-to-1 meeting schedule—so you can generate more referrals while saving a lot of time.

Keeping your Dance Card full is not a mystery—nor does it have to be hard work. BNI Dance Cards serve as a one-page schedule for planning meetings with all of your BNI referral partners. By following my method, you’ll have more meetings in a shorter amount of time; in return, you will get and give more referrals without nearly as much effort. Here’s how it works:

First, use the Dance Card process to build a list of all chapter members. Then prioritize the list to figure out those members with whom you want to meet first. Easy so far, right? (If you haven’t heard of the Dance Card, I recommend signing up for a refresher MSP class even if you’ve taken it before. It’s a great, ever-improving program.)

Next, pick a day and a time when you would like to conduct 1-to-1 meetings each week. If you want to have three 1-to-1 meetings per week, try having them back-to-back. For example, Thursdays starting with a 9 a.m. meeting, then a 10:00 a.m. meeting, and then an 11 a.m. meeting. I don’t leave any time inbetween meetings. By scheduling each meeting at the same location, such as a centrally located coffee shop, I don’t waste time driving from one location to the next.

Once you have a time block in mind, call or send an email to the first member on the top of your prioritized list and ask them to meet during any of your designated 1-to-1 time slots, even if it’s not this week or next week. In my case, I’d say, “Please pick any Thursday at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., or 11 a.m.” Once you get the first meeting, do the same thing for the second person on your prioritized list, except eliminate the taken time slot. Continue this process until you have a week or two full.

When you have your chapter meeting, bring your list of open time slots and ask the next people on your list if they can have a meeting during one of those open time slots. Again, don’t worry if they can’t meet until 3 or 4 weeks from the time you ask. Just keep scheduling meetings—but only during your desired time slots. Usually, if you stay ahead of the schedule by two to three weeks, it is very easy to schedule meetings; eventually you’ll have scheduled or completed meetings with everyone in your chapter.

Here’s another trick: At each 1-to-1 meeting, don’t leave until you’ve scheduled your next 1-to-1 with the person you’re meeting with. Although it might be 6 to 10 weeks out, that’s okay. Tell them, “I really value you as a referral partner and I want to make sure we meet regularly. I don’t want to take any chances.”

Use this process and you’ll find that your Dance Card gets filled up very quickly. And when your 1-to-1s follow a manageable schedule, you’ll give and receive more referrals.
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Do Unique Professions Work In BNI?

Twenty years ago, Dr. Misner met a commercial light bulb salesman who wanted to join BNI. Ivan was concerned that a person in such a unique profession might not do well, but the prospective member had no doubts. 

Do you think BNI membership worked out well for the commercial light bulb salesman? . . . Do you think people in niche professions can be successful in BNI?

Do Chamber Meetings Still Beat LinkedIn for Networking?

Which types of networking are most successful? A recent survey of 12,000 business people around the world confirmed some of my hunches but produced some surprising results, as well.

As part of research for the book, Business Networking and Sex: Not What You Think (Entrepreneur Press, 2012), my co-authors and I asked people what types of organizations they belong to and whether networking played a role in their success. We cross-tabulated the results to determine how effective different types of networking are.

As we had expected, people who get the most results from networking efforts seem to participate in face-to-face casual-contact networks like chambers of commerce, referral networks, and to a lesser extent, professional associations.

Even though they didn’t do well in this survey, I’m quite an advocate of online networks, women’s business organizations and service clubs. I did some thinking about why these groups received such low-success ratings.

I’m inclined to believe women’s organizations and service clubs didn’t do well because they have other important purposes that take precedence over networking. Women’s business groups often provide a place where members both support and educate each other, while service clubs focus primarily on providing service to the community. People, therefore, may not experience as much tangible success in networking efforts in these groups.

The survey results for online networks made me think of a comment I hear quite often from business owners who want to market their products and services on social and business networking sites: “I’ve got a profile page and a thousand connections…now what?” Many entrepreneurs spend a lot of time and effort building their online social capital through LinkedIn “connections,” Facebook “friends” and “likes,” and Twitter “followers,” but lack an actual plan for turning the growing number of contacts into customers.

Another issue for online networking: the exponential increase in marketing and social messages and the competition for people’s attention. In the course of a typical day, we might be chatting on Google Talk, looking at friends’ photos on Facebook, watching a celebrity’s Twitter feed, learning about a connection’s promotion on LinkedIn, reading a blog for business or pleasure, and doing an Internet search. We are inundated and easily distracted by these entreaties: Read this! Buy this! Try this! Connect with me! Like my business!

I certainly don’t think entrepreneurs should stop finding ways to improve their success in the online networking arena. But the results are the results, and — still a surprise to me — they’re not very good.

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