Today I went to a BNI meeting in Roanoke Virginia and the speaker was Dr. Ivan Misner. For those of you who don't know Dr. Misner is the founder of BNI. It was the first time I had the opportunity to meet him. It was well worth the trip.
It has been said and most of us believe that we all only really six degrees separated. We are all connected one way or another, just six degrees away. Dr. Misner's book The 29% says that Six degrees Separation creates an Achilles heel. He says only 29% of the people ( 1 out of 3) is really six degrees separated because in order to be connected you have to actively be doing something to connect. It is not likely that someone new is going to walk up to you out of the blue and want to net work and build a relationship with you.
One of the reasons this does not happen is because most folks don't know how to network. Majority of people have no idea how to attract people to them. Over 87% of college students have never had a class that even had a discussion about networking. Yet 75% of business owners said referral marketing is important in building their business.
Why is this? Why aren't colleges teaching young professionals how to network? I don't have a popular answer. But I think most professors have never been business owners. Those older tenured professors are the ones that determine the curriculum. The younger professors who may know more about networking don't have any control over the curriculum. The younger Gen Y and Gen X know much more about connecting. They are doing so via many medias and venues.
So what does networking entail? Friends, networking takes time. In order to be successful you have to make a commitment. Studies show successful business owners spend at least eight hours a week networking. Now I imagine many of you are saying eight hours, that is a lot of time! "I don't have time for all that!" Well, this may be true and my question to you is How is that working for you? If you are not getting all the referrals you want than I would suggest you block out some time to network.
Diversifying your contact list could actually double your referrals. All networks are overlapping. This is good but the more variety of people you have in your referral sources the more referrals you will get. You may think that the Mary Kay consultant could not possibly give you a million dollar referral but you just never know who they may know. Diversity could be very profitable.
I am inclined to be a cave dweller left to my own devices. I have to make a conscience effort to get out and meet people. I love people but I would not consider myself an extrovert. I am more of an introvert. But being an introvert has its advantages when it comes to networking. As an introvert I am more likely to do more listening than talking whereas an extrovert needs to learn to do less talking.
Being a cave dweller is kinda like getting a hair cut over the phone. Networking is a contact sport. You have to show up.
Have you ever heard of the 3 foot rule? If you get within 3 foot of someone it is likely that you will start up a conversation. Some folks have a 5 foot rule and some have a 20 foot rule. If the room is 50 foot long I know folks that will start a conversation with folks clear across the room! My point is that you can't do that sitting in your cave.
Having an accountability partner has been good for me. I regularly meet with my accountability partner and we talk about networking and what we have been doing to meet with people. We help each other focus on goals. Within your network it is likely that you are creating relationships and many of them are friends. It is good and bad to be friends. Friends don't like to hold friends accountable. Although I consider my accountability partner a friend we meet with purpose. As a result it is very helpful.
These are some simple ideas but not easy to implement. You have to change the way you think about your business. Working by referral means becoming visual instead of invisible. It means becoming knowledgeable to gain creditability and profits. It means being able to have more control over your business plan instead of allowing the economy to determine how you will run your business. I believe it is referral business that will allow you and I to survive the economy and credit crunch we are experiencing.