I recently joined a local chapter of BNI, (Business Networks International, www.bni.com), the Crossroads Connection. BNI is a professional business referral group. There are many groups similiar to BNI throughout the country so when I say BNI, I really mean any business referral group.
When I was invited to join the Delmar, NY chapter of BNI I was excited and skeptical at the same time. I had heard both enthusiastic success stories and jaded horror stories of what referral groups could be.
To my delight I found a "Team" of individuals dedicated to each others success. Energetic and fun the group listened intently as each member spoke to give a 60 second commercial about their business. Member's took notes when they went around the table again to give a 30 second commercial on what would be a good referral. Ideas for marketing techniques, networking functions, branding methods flew around the table despite the early meeting time of 730am on a Wednesday. I was hooked and immediately began the member approval process.
BNI encourages its members to meet for one-on-one meetings outside of the weekly group meeting to form a intimate business relationship. You learn not only what your fellow members do for a living but who they are as people. I feel that when it comes to referrals this is just as important a characteristic as the level of work they do.
There are reasons that a person may not want to be part of a referral group. As a member you are expected to refer clients to the other members and if you already have a bsuiness partner that you refer business to in a certain field that might cause issues. But my feeling is that BNI forces you to get to know the other members of your group so well that you WANT to refer clients. Always remember that Givers Get...
I must say that joining BNI has been one of best decisions I have made in a long time. My membership was paid for two times over in the first month. As an insurance agent in Albany, NY I really can't think of a better group to be a part of professionally. So if you have been thinking about joining a referral group but "haven't had the time" I would seriously encourage you to make the effort. In my case the affordable membership and hour and half a week are nothing compared to business I've created.
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