Dr. Ivan Misner is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization. Founded in 1985, it now has over 8,400 chapters around the world. Last year, BNI generated 9.1 million referrals resulting in $13.1 billion in closed business for its members.
Called the “Father of Modern Networking” by CNN, and one of the “Top Networking Experts” by Forbes, Dr. Misner is considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on business networking, and has been a keynote speaker for major corporations throughout the world.
He is a New York Times bestselling author, who has written 22 books.
What’s a misconception about networking?
Ivan Misner: You need a plan and strategy just like anything else. Networking is a part of the overall marketing. The problem is, that we don’t teach this in colleges and universities anywhere. We don’t teach networking, referral marketing, social capital, or emotional intelligence. I think one of the reasons for that is, most full time tenured professors teach. They don’t run companies. So, they don’t understand how important it is.
Networking is all part of the marketing process.
So, there’s this perception that networking is just about meeting people. Worse yet, because we don’t teach this, networking is used as a face to face cold calling opportunity. ‘Oh, hi Dave. My name is Ivan. We should do business. I know you don’t know me, but you need my product.’ I think it’s a huge mistake, and I think it’s because we don’t teach it.
When can you talk about doing business with each other?
Ivan Misner: I think rarely on the first conversation. I spoke at a big event in London a number of years ago, about 900 people. I asked the audience ‘how many of you are here hoping to sell something today?’ 900 people raised their hand. Second question: ‘how many of you are here hoping to buy something today?’ No one raised their hands. So this is what I call the networking disconnect. People show up at networking events wanting to sell, and nobody’s there to buy.
So why in the world would you be like everyone else, and try to sell? Look, if somebody wants what you want, you can stumble over that. And when you’re talking about what you do, if they’re interested, they’ll tell you.
I’m talking about building relationships with people, where they then not only buy your product, or service, but they refer you. Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting it. It’s about cultivating relationships with people who will then refer you over again, which is way better than hunting. If you’re hunting for your business, you basically killed that day. But if you’re farming for your business, those referrals keep coming to you, even when you’re on vacation.
Is there a percentage of time a person should spend on networking?
Ivan Misner: The answer is definitely yes. I just released a networking app that does just what you are talking about. It’s an app to track your networking activities. If you go to ivanmisner.com/scorecard you’ll see the networking app on there. It’s free.
I came up with that app, and I’ll tell you how… I started wondering: How many meetings do you need to go to? How many people do you need to have one-to-ones with? What types of networking groups do you go to? How many thank-you cards do you send out? So, I came up with a whole list of activities necessary to build a powerful personal network, and I put it all in that app so that people can track their activities.
The average, based on a survey I did of 12,000 people, is about six and a half hours a week, dedicated to networking. If you want to be above average, it’s going to be more.
About 30 hours a month?
Ivan Misner: Yeah, but we are talking about meeting people and getting to know them, and building relationships. It’s not digging a ditch. It’s pretty easy.
What do people need to know about body language?
Ivan Misner: Body language is really important. In a study done by Holler and Beatie they found that gestures increase the value of someone’s message by 60 per cent! They analyzed thousands of hours of TED talks and found one striking pattern. The most watched TED Talks were done by people who used effective hand gestures.
So the way you respond to people when you are talking to them, really does make a difference. It gives off a sense of confidence. You come across as warm and friendly, but you also have to make sure you know not to do jazz hands with your hands, flopping all around.
Also personal space is really important. In North American cultures, personal space is roughly arm’s length away; so you don’t get into somebody’s personal space unless you have a relationship with that person that would justify it.
Exit strategy. What are ways to say, ‘OK it was great meeting you. Hope to cross paths with you again soon.’
Ivan Misner: You know that’s almost what I recommend. People overthink this.
What you do is you say ‘it was really interesting talking to you’ … Now if you really want to, just ask them for one of their cards and have a card ready to give them.
And that’s it. Don’t apologize. Whatever you do, don’t say ‘I need to go meet some other people.’
Has Facebook evolved networking?
Ivan Misner: I think it is it’s added a tool to the tool belt. I think social networking in many ways gets a bad rap.
Part of networking is about touch points, and staying connected with somebody, and engaging them online… There’s the VCP process, the ‘visibility, credibility, profitability’.
You first have to be visible. People get to know who you are, and you establish credibility. They know you’re good. Then you get to profitability. You’re passing referrals to each other. So that still applies online. The problem is, I believe it takes longer to get credibility online, because nothing beats that face to face connection.
Skype can be close, but it’s not the same as shaking somebody’s hand, sharing a cup of coffee… (they are all) effective tools in our arsenal of relationship building.
With business travelers, there’s this singular opportunity to speak with somebody, then you shake hands, say goodbye. Despite distance, is there a way to maintain the network?
Ivan Misner: So I think your last question and this question have a bridge between them, because they are perfectly connected.
I think this is the most effective use of social media. Today more than ever, you can be a local business and have a global network, and have those connections with other people to help you in ways that you may have not ever imagined.
That’s all part of the relationship building process. I recommend that as you meet people in different states, and different countries, that you do connect through social media, because it’s a fantastic way to stay connected.
You want to email them occasionally, you want to instant message them, or leave a message on a post. With Skype I could talk to anyone in the world for free.
You know, the old expression is ‘it’s not what you know; it’s who you know’ but, it’s neither. It’s how well you know each other. It’s not just having a database. It’s being able to call someone in that database, and ask for a favor, and have them willingly do it.
It’s really about the relationships that you have with other people.