How to Triple Your Return from BNI with No Extra Effort

Bread and butter referrals

If all you ask for bread and butter referrals you are missing out! You need cream or dream referrals!

Is that to good to be true? Only if you do not want to put in a little extra work first before watching your return from BNI treble, so delegates at a recent BNI Berkshire training session discovered.

Like all networking you get out what you put in and with BNI you get out even more when you recognise that Givers Gain and at the ‘Profitable Networking’ was firmly focused on this principle by helping members to ask for better referrals and equip specific referral partners with better information to find the best opportunities for you, and indeed you for them.

We were divided into Power Teams – these are associated categories who share the same type of clients and mirrored the approach of successful chapters who use Power Teams to supercharge their referrals.

As Executive Director Nick Forgham explained, first you need to distinguish between your bread and butter referrals, cream referrals and dream referrals. All too often members can focus on the first and miss the richer opportunities that come from the latter.

Bread and butter referrals

These keep you ticking over and are typically one off customers or clients where once that job has been completed then no other work is likely to come from that referral.

Cream referrals

Naturally these are better. These are the big contracts, or introductions that will generate lots more referrals. So referral partners would qualify. Another way to look at it would be to say this kind of referral might pay for that family holiday!

Dream referrals

These are the life changing referrals. One that would lead to retirement! More likely it could see your business expand with new staff needed to meet the demand for your professional services.

Armed with this knowledge and within their Power Teams everyone set about listing example of Cream Referrals and an example of a Dream Referral.

Then we came up with proactive questions that people could ask to trigger these Cream Referrals – for example (and I was lucky enough to be working with business coach Rob Pickering) a Cream Referral for us would be a franchisor who might want case studies for each of his franchisees. So asking a franchisee ‘Does your franchisor help you get more business by providing case studies’ could generate such a referral.

We expanded this to create scenarios where different questions could be used to trigger the ‘… is it okay if they give you a call’ which in turn leads to a Cream Referral.

Finally, and having done all this work it is the final step that will triple your return from BNI, we were asked to list eight people we are proactively finding referrals for – and eight people who are proactively trying to find referrals for me. This needed to be an agreement above and beyond the normal approach within BNI where you try and find the referrals your fellow members ask for weekly.

Winding up with a trio of actions (mine were to email each of my eight by the end of the week, have one-to-ones with each of them by the end of June and to blog about the training!) we had already made the extra effort that should mean we can triple our return from BNI with not a lot more extra effort to exert!

What would be the take away for you? Well, apart from the obvious benefit of being in BNI, you should strive to know who your cream referrals would be and work out your referral partners who can find you these and better still your dream referral. However, always remember that Givers Gain!

The 29% Solution – Master the Top Ten Networking Traits

Week Seven – Master the Top Ten Traits – working through The 29% Solution in 2014

Do you know what the top ten traits of the master networker are? Could you hazard a guess? Well if networking is working rather than not working for you then the chances are you will recognise a good few of the following traits:

  1. Timely follow-up on referrals: Following up with what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it, builds your credibility and trust.
  2. Positive Attitude: Positive attitudes are contagious. People want to be around you. Being positive contributes to your determination, internal motivation, and ultimate business success.
  3. Enthusiasm: Enthusiastic and motivated people make things happen for themselves – and for the people they know.
  4. Trustworthiness: Trust, as we have been taught, is earned. It develops over time and throughout the time of a relationship. Trust is the foundation of your Credibility.
  5. Good listening skills: Listening and understanding the needs and problems of others can position you to engage the services of people you know. Communication well takes focus and effective listening.
  6. Commitment to Networking 24/7: Master Networkers are never formally of duty. Networking is so natural to them that they can be found networking in Waitrose, doctor’s office and at their children’s school and well as in networking functions. They operate on the Givers Gain mind-set where ever they are.
  7. Gratitude: Thanking others at every opportunity will help you stand out from the crowd. Expressing sincere gratitude to the people who will one day be there to help you is not just a courtesy — it’s the right thing to do.
  8. Helpfulness: Master networkers keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities to advance other people’s interests because they really want to. Master networkers get joy out of helping other people succeed.
  9. Sincerity: Those who have developed successful networking skills conver their sincerity at every turn. No multi-tasking here. Master networkers give their full attention to the task at hand. Make eye contact when you are speaking to people in person. Sincerely show that you care and give your complete attention to the person in front of you.
  10. Dedicated to Working One’s Network: Master networkers don’t let any opportunity to work their networks pass them by. They set up appointments to get better acquainted with new contacts and learn about them quickly so the path to Visibility and Credibility can be initiated. This is particularly true with respect to new members and visitors to your BNI chapter or other networking events.

In The 29% Solution they provide a worksheet that gets you to score yourself on each of the traits, with 1-5 points per trait depending on whether you never, rarely, sometimes, usually or always display each trait. As the book jokes, if you score 50 it is time to stop reading!

This concludes the first section of the book ‘Create your Future’, and the remains 45 weeks promise to expand on these traits and the amazing places they can take you.

Do scroll back through this blog if you want to check out our thoughts on the other chapters of The 29% Solution.

The 29% Solution – Create your Network Relationship Database


Week Six – Create a Network Relationship Database – working through The 29% Solution in 2014

I remember once seeing someone demonstrate the typical small business CRM system – that’s their Customer Relationship Management – by emptying a carrier bag of business cards on to the floor!

It might have been a bit extreme, but the truth is many businesses rely upon their contacts system within email, like Outlook or Gmail, to manage their contacts. Or if they do have a system it holds little more information than contact details.

You need more for that for your business and as Week Six of The 29% Solution reveals, you’ll need a lot more if you want a Network Relationship Database that works. It succinctly explains what you need to capture:

You need to keep more than just contact information. Record every word-of-mouth referral that you receive from your network… who gave you the referral, how it developed, and whether it led to any further business.

It is worth mentioning that if you are a member of BNI you receive your word-of-mouth referrals through a handy referral slip that separates into three parts – one for the recipient, one for the chapter and one for the giver to keep track of.

And if you believe the mantra ‘Givers Gain’ then surely your database needs to include the kind of referrals that you network members are looking for to remind you how you can help them.

Here at Morgan PR we are trialling different systems right now, looking for one that will suit both business and our network and ideally it will be in the cloud and work on tablets and smart phones so that information can be accessed and updated anywhere. We’ll post when we discover the right CRM!

Incidentally one of our associates, Jules Varnham from Go Live, specialises in corporate CRM systems so do check her out if your need is greater than a Network Referral Database.

The 29% Solution: Give to Others First

Week Five – Give to Others First – working through The 29% Solution in 2014

Have you heard the phrase ‘Givers Gain’? It is the ethos of the networking organisation BNI and underlines everything its members do; it is the principle that you give to others first – if I refer business to you, you will want to refer business to me.

This is the timely focus of Week Five of The 29% Solution – so after creating your networking plan, blocking out time to network, profiling your ideal client and recruiting your word-of-mouth marketing team it is time to put others first!

Whoever you are, you have a wealth of referrals to find and give to those in your network, in your word-of-mouth marketing team. Yet this can prove tricky and as a Director Consultant with BNI Berkshire it is the question I am most often asked – ‘how do I find referrals?’

As the authors Dr. Ivan Misner and Michelle R. Donvovan put it:

You are the gatekeeper to the resources locked inside your network.

Within BNI we offer training for finding referrals as there are so many different approaching to unlock those gates and belying the American origins of BNI they use good old Charlie Brown and his catchphrase of ‘Good grief’ which he utters every time life doesn’t go his way.

The book argues you can use ‘good grief’ to find referrals to match with others in your network. It suggests when people complain about their problems and challenges, as they so often do, instead of nodding sympathetically, why not solve them by telling them about someone in your network who can solve the problem – and then when you have permission you can ask the problem solver to get in touch with them.

Establish a reputation for this and people will seek you out for help with their problems and deliver you a wealth of potential referrals, making it easy for you to give to others first.

This networking strategy can go one step further the book explains, you could email your network listing the proven professionals and trades in your network and inviting people to contact you if they need help from any of them. Clever eh?

It suggests a text for this email or letter and urges you to send it out to your network as one of the actions and the other action is to ensure you have a ready supply of business cards from all those people you refer business to.

What do you do to find referrals? Share you tips here as after all, Givers Gain!

The 29% Solution: Recruit your Word of Mouth Marketing Team

Week Four – recruit your word of mouth marketing team – working through The 29% Solution in 2014

When you ask business people where most of their enquiries comes from they will nearly always say: ‘word of mouth’ – which is why we always say great PR is about getting people talking!

This is especially true if you go networking. I’ve belonged to and visited many different networking organisations, have chaired some and set up others and know that great referrals only come when people know what kind of business you are looking for.

Last week ‘The 29% Solution’ talked about understanding your ideal clients so you could as for the right kind of referrals and in the fourth of 52 networking strategies it talks about recruiting a word of mouth marketing team to find those ideal clients.

Now there is no mention of BNI here so unless you are familiar with the world’s biggest networking organisation you might not know that when you belong to a chapter of BNI you are part of a word of mouth marketing team! Your fellow members are your team and will actively go out looking for referrals for you, just as you go out looking for the referrals they have asked for!

This is achieved through a structured approach which has an underlying philosophy of ‘Givers Gain’ and if I give you business, you will give me business. That means if you know who your ideal client is you can ask for it and people will try and help, just as you do them. I’ve never seen this happen outside of BNI!

Obviously you do not need to be in BNI to recruit a word of mouth marketing team! It just makes it easier and certainly once you have experienced it you can actually clearly understand how to recruit other people to your team – for example many of our clients know what kind of companies we want to work with and actively look for chances to refer us.

Naturally, I scored well on the questions that related to this part of networking in the quiz I took at the beginning of adopting ‘The 29% Solution’ and I am proud of my word of mouth marketing team – and thrilled to be part of many other people’s team too!

Want to see a word of mouth marketing team in action? Visiting your local BNI chapter is a good start and probably the best way to grasp just how powerful such a team can be for your business whether you go networking or not. If you are Berkshire then please contact me for as a Director Consultant with BNI Berkshire I can help you.


The 29% Solution: Profile your preferred client to win more business

Week Three – profile your preferred client – working through the 29% Solution in 2014

Another hefty dose of uncommon common sense in Week 3 of The 29% Solution is all about working out who your preferred clients are – which I know from when I offer help during one-to-ones is not always known.

Or as the book’s author and BNI founder Dr. Ivan Misner puts it:

Imagine what your business would be like if you had a Rolodex filled with only the people and businesses you most like to work with.

Apart from quipping my business would be in 1995 with a Rolodex, you can get the idea – instead of playing the numbers game with an ill-considered database you would have a CRM system that is brimming with genuine opportunities to do business.

It offers a worksheet which neatly displays the approach to profiling your preferred client and differentiates between B2C and B2B clients. It is actually quite simple like the best ideas and presumably is something that the book will build on as it works through its 52 networking strategies.

Another approach could be to analyse your existing clients – the ones that deliver for your business that is… not the right proper nuisance clients. Where are they based? How many staff do they have? What is their turnover – look for common factors especially as these will contribute to the profile of the preferred clients.

Also, and here is some bonus thoughts from Morgan PR, do consider creating case studies for these preferred clients to act as social proof for your preferred prospects. A case study focuses on the benefits your clients enjoy and demonstrate why someone should work with you. We do these and have clients enjoying as much as an 80% conversion rate courtesy of our case studies.

Please do contact Morgan PR if you would like to discover the power of case studies for winning business from your preferred clients.

Finally do remember you can discover about setting your networking goals and blocking out time for networking in our earlier blogs. And do tell us in the comments below how you profile your preferred client? Any helpful tips?

The 29% Solution: Do You Block Out Time to Network?

Plan your networking

Week Two – Block out time to network – working through The 29% Solution in 2014.

That seems like a fair question? You can probably guess that it means doing a little more than blocking out the event time in your calendar!

Like most things worth doing in life, if you are going to network you should do it properly – unless that is you spell ‘networking’ more like ‘notworking’.

My journey through ‘The 29% Solution’ – the book on getting more from networking by BNI Founder Dr. Ivan Misner – has reached Chapter Two and having set specific and measurable networking goals in last week’s blog it involved saying what I was going to do to achieve them – it didn’t involve me blocking out the time needed to achieve those goals!

To be fair my role as a Director Consultant with BNI Berkshire involves extra responsibilities to support my chapters that requires spending time outside the meetings to ensure they thrive and I fulfil my aim of helping chapters to grow and individual members grow their business.

However what this part of the book has reminded me to do is block out time specifically for networking, so now I have time immediately after my various meetings blocked out so I can have 1-2-1s and follow up with members and visitors. I also specifically block out time on a Monday to invite visitors and then time each day to handle emails and respond to follow up calls.

In BNI, a member who doesn’t truly embrace the principle of ‘Givers Gain’ is often dubbed ‘a 90 minute member’ meaning that while they turn up for the meeting they do nothing else in the 9,990 minutes between weekly meetings.

When I think of other networking groups I have run and founded, they only thrived because I blocked out time to manage them and more crucially I only achieved business through them when I consistently added networking time to my default diary.

So this one of those uncommon common sense parts of networking and as I mentioned before if you consider networking worth doing, it is worth doing well!

So tell us how you manage your time networking? And remember, it is never too late to set your networking goals!


The 29% Solution: A business plan sure, but a networking plan?

Week One – Set Networking Goals – working through The 29% Solution in 2014

Do you have a business plan? A marketing plan? Worthy questions that kick off Week One of the book ‘The 29% Solution’ and run the risk of diverting you from establishing a plan for networking. If you don’t have the former then you really shouldn’t be here!

However, let’s assume you have a business plan and surely networking should be part of your marketing plan too? Perhaps if you can see how networking would contribute it will inspire you to have a marketing plan! Or perhaps a PR and Social Media Strategy too!

The book challenges you to set SMART goals (guest blogger and author Neil Goudge talked about SMART goals in his guest post on achieving resolutions) and clearly if you set goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timed

It suggests SMART goals like ‘Becoming a member of the ABC (BNI Bourne in Thatcham anyone?) Chapter by June 30 or ‘I will achieve a 30% increase in my annual referral business from networking in (named networking group) by December 31st.’

It also asks really pertinent questions that I suspect few networkers, this one included in the past, ever ask themselves.

For example:

  • How much business do you want to get from word-of-mouth referrals and by when?
  • How many networking functions will you attend each month?
  • Who do you want to meet this year? 

Remember it would be easy to add a figure and date and create a SMART goal, but nothing is going to happen unless you make it! So what do you need to do to achieve such a goal?

A point to remember and I suspect will become more obvious as I blog about The 29% Solution each week, is that if you are a member of a BNI Chapter you will find that you score higher and will more readily achieve many of the outcomes… makes you think eh?!

Now my networking goals are slightly different due to my exciting capacity as a Director Consultant with BNI Berkshire as I want to make the cake bigger rather than just my slice – which is a delicious way of explaining the BNI ethos of Givers Gain. My slice will get bigger naturally!

Those SMART networking goals at January 2014 (and I will undoubtedly add more during the year):

  • Improve my overall networking competence by December 31st 2014

I will do this by completing ‘The 29% Solution’s’ 52 weekly strategies and blogging about them here will cement the learning and make me accountable.

Attend the monthly BNI Director Training offered by BNI Berkshire.

Continue being mentored by Julian Lewis, one of the Executive Directors of BNI Berkshire

  • I will raise my own networking profile among the members of the various chapters in BNI Berkshire throughout 2014.

I will do this by delivering at least one education slot at all the established chapters throughout Berkshire by June 30.

By being part of the team delivering training for members of the newly elected BNI Leadership Teams in March and September 2014

By demonstrating my expertise in the ‘How Givers can Gain on LinkedIn and BNI Connect training courses which I run for BNI Berkshire.

Through sharing blogs like this one on appropriate social media channels.

  • Help at least 50 new business professionals and tradespeople discover the power of BNI and successfully apply to join a chapter in BNI Berkshire by 31 December 2014.

I will do this through inviting visitors to BNI Bourne in Thatcham, one of the chapters I am responsible for. 

I will do this by being an effective Director Consultant when meeting with visitors who are interested in applying to join BNI. 

I will do this by inviting my social media audience to join me when I am visiting chapters throughout BNI Berkshire to deliver the education slot.

I will do this through the successful launch in BNI Streatley, which will be held on Tuesdays at The Swan Hotel in Streatley.

SMART goals I think!

Keep up to date with my progress through 52 weekly strategies of The 29% Solution here!

What are your networking goals? Why not share them here and become accountable? And do get in touch if you would like more business and want to know how networking with BNI can deliver it.

Next week: Block Out Time to Network

What Netflix can teach us about networking

What Netflix can teach you about networkingDid you binge over Christmas? No, we don’t mean third helpings of turkey or a bloat of mince pies (it should be the collective noun!). Did you gorge yourself on Netflix? Have you seen House of Cards? Or Lilyhammer? How about Orange is the New Black?

With over 1.4 million users in the UK subscribing to Netflix for just £5.99 per month for unfettered access to so many TV series and movies there is a good chance you are avoiding the water cooler lest you expose yourself as a Sky subscriber or worse!

However, it is not the ability to combine watching an entire series of Breaking Bad rather than go to bed that is making Netflix so successful, it is actually the uncanny ability to suggest programmes you might like based on those you’ve just watched or even based on a search for a show they don’t yet have! They are precise and nearly always correct.

Contrast this with the blunderbuss of recommendations that Amazon offers. This is especially bad following Christmas when perhaps more than ever your previous purchases include gifts. So it is suggesting you might like items that relate to something you bought for someone else!
So what has this got to do with being successful at networking?

It is all about being specific!

Say you were at a networking event and you wanted to be introduced to someone in the public relations and social media industry. If you say that you might just get lucky and get introduced as a result.

However, if you asked to be referred to Nigel Morgan, a director with public relations and social media agency Morgan PR in Newbury, West Berkshire something magical will happen akin to Netflix thinking of other programmes you might like.

Absolutely, if people in the room know me, they will probably introduce you and even if they don’t know me personally they might ask their network or look on LinkedIn to see if they know someone who knows me.

If they don’t know me they might know someone else in a PR and/or social media company, they might know a marketing company in Newbury or any variation of the details you gave and even by being specific you open up the possibility of being referred to other businesses you might like to work with! Just like Netflix uncannily figures you might like other programmes and films.

Being specific is something that the networking organisation BNI teaches its members to be during their 60 second presentations at the weekly meetings. Those who are will always be more successful than those who ask for somebody or anybody. It is why other networking organisations I know (and enjoy) do not deliver the same results.

So has Netflix taught you something about networking? Or do you have another strategy that works? Tell us more in the comments and if you would like to experience a chapter in BNI Berkshire, or indeed just about anywhere in the world, do contact us here at Morgan PR.

Trying out The 29% Solution to improve the return on networking

The 29% SolutionHave you ever played Six Degrees of Separation? The dinner party game where you see how you can reach anyone in the world in just six degrees? It is certainly fun when you’ve been a journalist and police press officer as you quickly tot up celebrities and Royals which make for a winning hand!

However, I have just found out the fallacy of six degrees though. It is nonsense and based on the most successful of Stanley Milgram’s tests in the 1960s and 70s where letters were sent out by a group to try and reach a person they didn’t know. Just 29% achieved it in the now mythical six degrees and in other tests it fell to just five per cent!

Hence the title of a book I’m reading The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies (affiliate link) by BNI founder Ivan Misner and referral expert Michelle Donovan. It takes the urban myth of six degrees and aims to get your networking to that level, to be part of that minority for whom six degrees does work, with 52 weekly success strategies.

To benchmark where you are the book asks you to fill out Ivan Misner’s Networking Self-Analysis form, which I duly did. Totting up my score it was 208 out of a possible 260, which landed me just inside the 80th percentile and apparently I’m ‘Very Good’! Or to be more precise, according to the authors:

“You’re doing many things right. Your effort can be very effective, and your relationships strong.”

What follows are 52 weekly strategies broken into eight sections and with a score of 208 I will no doubt find some weeks will be building on activities I already carry out as an experienced networker and Director Consultant for BNI Berkshire.

I’m hoping that this book will enhance my ability to help members of BNI Berkshire while improving my own performance as a networker, not least embodying the BNI principle of ‘Givers Gain’.

I plan to blog about each strategy and explain how I have found it and what results it is bringing and would be interested how these blogs help you too so do jump in with any thoughts or questions. The first week explores ‘Creating your Networking Goals’, which should be good!