Yesterday was a pretty strange, yet positive day… Not because of the ridiculous heat that the U.K. is clearly ill-equipped to handle, but because during the afternoon and into the early evening I (Rachel) was a selected speaker of eight at the latest BNI Networking Visitor Inviting workshop hosted for the Midlands region.
Those of you who know me personally, will know I LOVE inviting visitors to networking meetings. It’s the perfect opportunity to meeting new people and get to know new businesses, so naturally you would think this is the ideal situation for me; presenting on a topic I love, to a room full of fellow BNI members who I trust and respect… Nope, thats not my rational brain for you! Speaking in front of any more than a small gathering is way out of my comfort zone – I’m still carrying the heavy scars from my English teacher making me stand in front of the classroom to read aloud Shakespeare! Thanks a bunch, Miss!
Nevertheless, I said yes… Someone once told me, the trick to presenting is to always remember:
"No one knows what you're going to say, so if you go wrong - who's going to know?"
So with that in mind, I grasped the opportunity… And it was just that – an opportunity – a chance to help someone, to make a difference, to solve a problem, to promote my own skills and business. How exciting! I don’t know if I will get another chance to make an impact like that on a large scale again, so I wanted to leave a mark; spark an idea and inspire some out of the box thinking, the only thing which would deliver that was to take a deep breath and share my own unexpected BNI secret…
It involves those dreaded words that are not to be used in BNI… Can you guess them?
Be selfish with it! Yes, you did read that correctly!
I presented my own concept on how inviting visitors both embraces the BNI philosophy of Givers Gain™, whilst allowing you to indulge in a bit of selfishness in the process. It’s all well and good being the hero to help your chapter and all that, very admirable, but wheres the perk for your own hard work and efforts?
Stay with me, I’ll explain all and it should make perfect sense, fingers crossed. But first let me explain why I of all people was asked to be a part of this training in the first place, what possibly makes me qualified to guide paying attendees on the matter of inviting…
I’m a keen networker, an unnatural one, but keen nonetheless. I don’t hide it, as a marketer I completely embrace it; I advise it to clients, I’m a mentor within my local networking group, I’ve sponsored 4 members into local group and 1 to a core group, I like to think I have thrown myself completely into the networking world, I now network daily without even realising it, I’ve event blogged about it: The Importance Of Networking For Your Business, but most importantly… Inviting visitors uses all the same techniques you would use to promote your own business – it’s no different!
By inviting visitors, you are promoting your local group because that visitor needs something either yourself, another member or a whole group can assist with… It’s just simple marketing!
No fancy techniques, no fancy wording, just pure and simple marketing to the right people...
Now to the good stuff, people ask; “How do I do it?”. No offence, but that’s the wrong question to ask, each invite although it follows a script is always tailored and differs from platform to platform… All eight speakers had their own takes, using different messaging, different approaches and different styles that suited them and I certainly picked up a trick or two I’m keen to try out.
But what people should be asking is; “Who do I invite?”. With any marketing, the key is in the planning. I break my invites down into three categories, if they don’t fit into those three, they don’t make the cut – it’s simply not worth my own time and therefore they don’t get invited… Harsh I know!
This is where the selfish element comes into play – if I don’t get something out of that invite, why should I spend time out of my day doing it? The “Whats in it for me?” isn’t a a bad question to ask yourself, and no one should feel guilty for asking it! In fact asking it, is the most useful thing you can do when inviting. Many networking groups say “invite everyone, pre-judge no one” – correct completely, but everyone is one heck of a big net for you to cast out, don’t you think? This is where my three categories come into play:
My three categories are simple yet effective in ensuring that I am putting my efforts into those who will either, selfishly, benefit my own company directly or indirectly. See, it’s not bad to be a bit selfish! It benefits the whole group as well as your own business, winner I my book… If you can’t quite see the logic just yet, maybe a venn diagram will help – who doesn’t love a diagram!
Now we have the three categorise, how does this work in real life?
You head back to your marketing toolbox… Have you heard of ‘Social Listening’? If not, thats okay, its probably why your on our blog anyway, to learn something new! Social listening means tracking conversations around your industry, specific topics, and audiences at a high level. Whilst you’re in your networking meetings you are constantly on the look our for referrals right? Who wouldn’t be, but keep half an ear open for visitor opportunities too. Most referrals could double up as a visitor too, what a way to look like a rockstar within your group by turning up with not just a referral a fellow member asked for, but the person to introduce them to their and then! You’d be a chapter legend for sure…
I hope this technique gives you the confidence to invite, and to be bold enough to invite someone just for your own selfishness, you’re a busy business owner, treat yourself because you and your business have earned it!
BNI Networking Visitor Inviting
BNI Networking Visitor Inviting