header BNI

Expert Opinion:
Networking is Like Grocery Shopping (really)

Christel Wintels is the Executive Director and Franchise Owner of the BNI Golden Horseshoe Region, a Master Franchisee Partner with the Referral Institute Canada, Vice President, Operations, Referral Institute Ontario, a Certified Networker and a Master Trainer with the Referral Institute. Christel has written numerous articles about the art and science of referral marketing and how to build lifetime referrals through the philosophy of “Givers Gain”. She writes a weekly Networking Nugget for BNI members, shares Referral Tips for business owners, and is a contributing author to the New York Times Bestseller,” Masters of Sales”.

I’ve noticed that business people are surprised when I ask them how many business networks they belong to. Their answer is usually, “one”; followed by the question, “How many should I be part of?”

That depends on your goals, your target market and the reason you’re in business. Belonging to only one business network is like shopping at only one grocery store; it’s easy but you might be missing some great opportunities.

What do we know about grocery shopping? Once you’ve shopped at a few grocery stores, you’re able to decide on one maybe two favourites. These tend to become your regular stores. You may have chosen them because:

  1. You like the store. You like the products, the atmosphere, the selection.
  2. Maybe it’s conveniently located. I know that I don’t drive out of my way for everyday groceries.
  3. And, when you were sampling a few stores you probably came to the conclusion that one in particular offered good value overall.

Choosing a business network is similar. Once you decide that you should join one; you check it out, see if you like what it does; decide if it offers good value and if it does, you join.

But what if you need something special?

In the case of the grocery store:  what happens when you’ve invited your best client to dinner at your house, and, you said you’d cook! Do you go to your regular grocery store? Or do you go somewhere special. Perhaps a specialty meat, veggie or gourmet food store to pick up a few treats.  It makes perfect sense. Your needs have gone from generic to specific.

The same approach applies to your business networking activities.

Here are the basics for business networking success.

In my opinion, every business person should belong to the Chamber of Commerce or Board of Trade in their area. As business people, this network is our voice and link to local and regional government. Think of it as the everyday grocery store for your business. It provides lobbying, volume buying, education, and networking.

Now, what about the specialty needs that you and/or your business might have?

There are so many networks available; support networks, knowledge networks, social networks, community service networks, online networks and referral networks. Therefore the best way to decide on a network is to assess your business needs and then assess the available networks.

Are you new to business? Then you might consider joining a support network and surrounding yourself with experienced business people from whom you can learn.

Most of us in business should align ourselves with a knowledge network to ensure that we stay current in our particular industry’s knowledge.

Do you like meeting new people and the more social side of networking? Then by all means join a network that has an active social element.

Are you ready to give back to your community? Then a service network could be the right fit for you.

Are you looking to create high quality, consistent referrals? A referral network fits the bill.

Whatever your specific business needs, research shows that business people who belong to networks (yes, more than one and I suggest at least 2) are more successful in their chosen field.

Just like good food keeps you healthy; good networking keeps your business healthy.

Take a moment to assess your networking grocery list, and if you have unfulfilled needs – start shopping!

Christel welcomes your contact by email: christel@bnigh.com  website: www.bnigh.com  phone: 905.681.1999 or 1.866.340.8740  blog: www.referraltips.blogspot.com

Leave a Reply