Cys Bronner, BNI Executive Director, CRO (Chief Referral Officer) and ActionSteps4Success Founder give you valuable tips on how to keep the focus on business networking to grow the best relationships and get the most results.
Hi, I’m Cys Bronner, Executive Director of BNI4Success, BNI’s Greater Los Angeles regions. Today, I want to discuss how to keep the focus on business networking to grow the best relationships and get the most results.
Have you ever been a networking event, business meeting (BNI or otherwise) and the conversation has taken a left-turn away from the intent of the meeting? I know I have.
So what? Well, you and the other people there have a purpose/commitment/need to participate and focus on why you are there for the business gathering
That purpose is business. Whether it be a Chamber Networking event or BNI. By the way, BNI’s statement about themselves is:
BNI is a business and professional networking organization that allows one representative from each profession to join. The sole purpose of the group is to give its members more business. … BNI provides a structured environment for the development and exchange of quality business referrals for both men and women.
So how do we do that?
We really need to understand why we are there and what our goal is, which is to grow our business by building those business relationships which leads us to great referrals.
You can’t do that without understanding the process of how business relationships are created – did you notice that I sorta leaned on the word business there?
It’s because certain things just aren’t appropriate to the initial business connection. We’ve all heard the golden rule about staying away from politics or religion – but it’s more than that. It’s about staying on track.
Let me give you an example of what I mean…
A few years back I knew a member, we’ll call her CL. And CL was having a hard time personally and professionally. One was probably the result of the other.
One of the personal issues she was having was that she had not only her own cats with health issues but had adopted several strays with kittens and eventually more kittens. In her stressed financial situation, the endless food and vet bills had become overwhelming.
You might wonder how I know this. Because every opportunity I had to be around her when networking she was discussing this – with myself or other business professionals.
It’s not the aspect of being a “Debbie Downer” that concerned me or the result that she was driving people away.
You see, by continuing to remain off topic (for weeks, I might add) she was denying herself and the other person the ability to connect on a business level.
Neither party got to know what the other really did. There was no conversation about anything that could amount to why they were there, and quite honestly it was painful to see as well as be a part of.
CL could have used the limited networking time to bump up her business in so many ways, one of which could have been by being a connector as she invited another professional from the room into that circle of professionals – introductions are a fabulous way to shine! They generally talk you up as to how you two know each other professionally.
Of course there are other ways that CL could have effectively used that time, but what if you are the person who she was talking to?
You’re going to want to bring back the conversation to its purpose – business networking.
Start by being interested in what they do. Ask focused questions that steer them back on topic.
I generally ask things like “How long have you been doing what you do?” or comment “Wow, that’s wonderful. When did you know that this was really what you wanted to do professionally?”
If I am really having difficulty in steering the topic away from the unwanted conversation, I find that a successful way is to have a little fun and I ask, “What’s the strangest/funniest incident you’ve experienced in your business?”
Of course, you’re under no obligation to feel trapped speaking to one person. All that will happen is that you will find yourself measuring the distance between you, them, and the door – or trying to find a way to leave the online breakout room without looking less that the professional that you really are.
Knowing how to politely leave a conversation is an important skill to have and can go a long way to help you make the most out of your networking time.
Here’s a few sentences that I like to use:
“Thank you so much for your time, it was terrific speaking with you. If I don’t run into you later, I hope to see you at another event soon.”
“I want to see if <insert name here> is still here. We were supposed to connect today. Thank you for your time”
One of the first ones I learned in my early BNI days is “There are a lot of people here today and I don’t want to hold you back from meeting them. I’ve really enjoyed speaking – let’s go circulate!”
My preference is to ask to connect later, after the event, is to make an introduction of yourself to valuable contact and vice versa. To do this I like to say something like “I really enjoyed speaking to you and would love to continue this another time. May I get your contact details?” or even “I’d love to see how we could possibly work together, are you free next week for a call or cup of coffee?”
Learning how to stay on track with these business conversations will gain you better results each and every time.
I’d like to thank you for listening today at BNIPodcast4Success.com and I invite you to share your stories in the comments.
In networking: The more memorable (positive and helpful) you are, the better the results.
Questions? Feel free to call BNI Executive Director Cys Bronner 866-889-3466 or email her at Cys.Bronner@BNI4success.com
Her motto: BNI, Making word of mouth marketing work for you