Making networking work for your business

By Graham McGregor, marketing consultant and the creator of the 'Unfair Business Advantage Report.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Ivan Misner the founder of BNI. www.bni.com (BNI is the largest networking group in the world.)

Ivan is known as the godfather of networking and he talked with me about the VCP process® of networking. VCP® stands for visibility, credibility and profitability. It's a chronological process and begins with first of all visibility - people have to know who you are and what you do.

Then you get credibility. People know who you are, they know what you do and they know you are good at it.
People don't refer people until they know and trust them. That means you need to get credibility with them before they are going to consider trusting you.

And then once you've established credibility with people you move to profitability. People know who you are, they know what you do, they know you are good at it and they are willing to give you referrals on an on-going basis.

Ivan explained that where networking goes wrong is when people practice what he calls premature solicitation. (That's where you try to get people do business with you before they really get to know you.)

They walk up to you, they are networking and they go 'Hi John, my name is Ivan, you know we should be doing business together' and they jump ahead and that almost never ever works.

Ivan said that people who want an advantage at building their business through referrals, have to understand that networking is more about farming then it is about hunting.It's about cultivating relationships with other business people.

With every survey Ivan has ever done where he asks people 'is networking an important way for you to generate your business?' he gets a huge response.

The last survey he did was with 12,000 business people all around the world, and 94 per cent of the respondents said 'networking is a very important way for me to build my business.' One of the things Ivan asked them was 'how much time do you spend networking? 'And he asked 'have you achieved any success through networking?' The people who said 'yes' to that question spend on average six and a half hours a week networking. The people who say 'no this networking thing doesn't work for me' the majority of them are spending less than two hours a week networking.

Ivan recommends to achieve success with networking you need to spend at least six and a half hours a week on it.
You also want to diversify your networks, participate in a group like BNI, a service club or professional association, online networks and so on. Be in different kinds of groups because you have different connections, different strengths, and different exposure to different groups of people.

Ivan shared a great comment I really liked in our interview. He said 'It's not what you know or who you know, it's how well you know them that really counts.' So it's that relationship that really counts in terms of networking.

Ivan pointed out that Networking isn't a get rich scheme. It isn't something where you just flip the switch, hand out cards and get business. Networking is a long term process of building great relationships with people.

One of the best things you can do to begin networking is to start doing a couple of small favours each day for other business people. Say a positive word about a business you really like. Recommend businesses where you get great service or treated really well.

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