Ep#37: BNI – Building your Business with Referrals

 Delve into the BNI business networking model and how you can use it to grow your business

Simon Derrick-RobertsThis week we have a great interview with Simon Derrick-Roberts, the regional director at BNI South Australia. BNI is a business networking organisation with 6,200 active chapters and 150,000 members in 50 countries, it is the most successful business referral organisation of its kind.

We cover;

  • What is BNI?
  • How does it work? What is the cost?
  • How is it different from other networking groups and events?
  • Is it best suited to particular types of businesses (e.g. B2B vs B2C) or particular industries (product, service) or everyone?
  • Are most members there for the long term or is there a constant turnover?
  • How does BNI get new members?
  • How can people get the most out of BNI?


[spoiler title=”Click for Transcription” open=”0″ style=”1″]

Interview with Simon Derrick-Roberts from BNI

Nick: Welcome back to the Web Marketing Adelaide broadcast. I am your host Nick Morris and this week, we are joined by Simon Derrick-Roberts from BNI and we are going to talk about BNI, which is a business networking, network international, business networking. Good day Simon welcome to the show.

Simon: Thanks for having me on Nick. Great to be here.

Nick: Let’s get started by having you tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about your role at BNI?

Simon: Yes, sure. So, I started my BNI journey as a rank and file member just over three years ago. I actually spoke with the local business enterprise center CEO, his name is Mike Hawkins. I asked him to tell me what are the networking opportunities that were available in my area. I spent that time working as a Business Development Manager for a cloud computing custom software Development Company based in Adelaide and also looking to connect with other business professionals, IT professionals, business consultants etc., who could refer me in to the clients that I was looking to tap in to. So yeah Mike put me on to BNI and it was interesting the very first time I went to a meeting.

We had actually, we were meeting at a pub, we were locked out of the venue, so it wasn’t a great first impression. We were stuck in the courtyard at the Britannia Hotel but I just felt that the people that were at the meeting were a much higher caliber than what I’ve bumped into at say, business SA, Chamber of Commerce, the local BEC. So, even though perception was it wasn’t a great first start, there was just something different about it, so that’s why I got involved at the ground level.

Nick: Cool, that’s a good little introduction. Moving on from that, what is BNI exactly? I mean obviously, it’s business networking but can you give us a little bit more information?

Simon: BNI is about doing your personal referral network so the challenge that you have with a normal networking group is that when you walk up, there might be three telecommunication guys in the room, five mortgage brokers, two real estate agents etc. So, you’re at one of these events, there’s normally more people there you know. There might be anywhere from 40 up to 100 but your competitors are in the room and probably the other challenge is and I actually was attending an event a couple weeks ago.

I was asked to speak for a few minutes at something we call the Networking Disconnect. I’ve never tried this exercise myself before but I asked the room, you know please raise your hand if you’re here to sell. So, every single hand, its about 35 to 40 people in the room, every single hand went up. So, they were all there to sell and then I asked the question, “Now c’mon guys, be honest, how many of you are here to buy?” Well two hands kind of half went up a little bit ashamed at least, so that’s the disconnect that everyone’s there to sell, no one’s genuinely there to buy so the idea with BNI is your competitors aren’t in the room. So, that’s one advantage and you’re actually there to sell through the people in the room, so they tap into their network of the 2 or 300 people sitting behind each other person in the room, rather than to sell to the 30 people in the room, if that makes sense.

Nick: Yeah, that makes sense. You mentioned other networking groups, what are the main, sort of differentiators between BNI and others of regular networking groups apart from obviously as you say compared to that in the room? There are other networking events I’ve sort of become aware of it, operates in a similar where they can only accept one of each industry and things like that. Are there any other major differences or for instance, do you think other networking events can still be effective for getting business?

Simon: Yeah, absolutely although you generally, look, it depends on what industry are you in. If you are a florist, you know it’s a fairly low risk transaction, so someone who’s only just met you might try you out and spend $50 or $100 bucks. What could possibly go wrong. If you are an accountant, really your goal should be to make two or three meetings for contacts on the night, have some good conversation and then follow-up for coffee afterwards. So, we actually encourage our members to be involved in other networking groups.

We think they should be active, depending on their target market Facebook and or LinkedIn in various conversation groups there. They should be involved in at least one sort of Chamber of Commerce, you know those place you go, events just to build their contacts sphere. Also you should be involved in a service group if you are a community minded, you know Rotary. We have a lot of Rotarians and Lions Clubs members, I’m in Lions myself.

So yeah, but what we don’t want for our members is that they are involved in one of those other groups that you talked about, which are similar to BNI, in that there are about referrals or leads and there is only one person per profession in the room because if the great opportunity comes across my desk for a real estate agent, then I’ve got divided loyalties, who do I give it to? So, it’s great for me, I’m tapping into two separate groups of people that again find me referrals but it’s not very fair to the other people in the room because of those divided loyalties.

Nick: Yeah that makes sense. Let’s hear a little bit more about how it actually works on the day when you go along to these events and how the referral system works and also what’s the cost behind this?

Simon: Sure, ok. So I’ll handle the cost side first if that’s alright then we’ll come back to how it works because how it works is a little bit like getting a haircut. It’s very hard to explain and get the result unless you’re actually there. So, cost wise, first thing, we’ll talk about the value. So, last year in Australia, the average return from member, obviously there is some that’s way over, some that didn’t do very well but the average return because we test and measure everything in BNI and that’s probably one of our points of differences over the similar organizations that have one person profession. The average return was $47,000 Australia wide. In Adelaide, it was around $43,000 last year for the average member. So, the cost involved, there’s an annual membership fee which is $730 next year’s fee and there is also once of joining fee of $340 next year’s fee. So, in your first year it’s $11,077 including tax and that’s less than a cup of coffee a day. I think it works out, being divided by 365 its $3.20 a day. So, if you weigh up the returns obviously you’ve got to put in some time and effort. You don’t just magically get 43 grand or 47 grand just because you’ve signed a piece of paper but cost benefit analysis is a fairly good return on investment.

Nick: Absolutely. I can see if you’re only putting in $1,000 or $750 for later years and then getting $43,000, that seems like a pretty good return.

Simon: Yeah and every year, sorry, what was the first part of that question again? So I jumped in…

Nick: That’s fine. I was just trying to get a bit of an idea how it works in the day. If it’s hard to explain maybe you can give us a brief overview.

Simon: I’ll give you a very brief overview. Somebody run a structured 40 point agenda that’s designed to facilitate building their profile and trust levels within the room, so basically proves that you are credible because if you are a real estate agent, not everyone in that room in a given 12 months period is going to be out to personally try your services. In fact, if one or two of them can, that’s great but again that’s what we’re about. We’re about selling through the people in the room. So the 40 point agenda is designed to let you show up, present your business in a very positive way, probably the key points of the meeting. We actually make a request for specific referral every week. So, depending on the size of your group you normally deliver a 60 second presentation, where you might talk about a recent job you’ve been working on and then you are ask for something quite specific.

If you’re business to business, you might name a particular person, their position in the company, the company, the industry etc. If you work business to community, business to consumer, sorry, you might describe a key life situation. So, if you are a travel agent, you might be talking about someone who’s just gotten engaged because they’re gonna start thinking about their honeymoon. So, we make a specific referral request. Each of the members during the meeting and then towards the end of the meeting, we actually pass the referrals that we did during the week, we actually record at a transaction level and it goes into the database, the referrals that we passed.

Any referrals we received previously that have translated into business, we actually tracked the value of the business received. That’s how we can tell you how that $43,000, who’s the average return for the Adelaide member last year, but I think the key point for building credibility in the room, as I said, not everyone is gonna try your service. But if one of the members has personally used you or they’ve referred you to one of their contacts and you’ve done a fantastic job, what they all generally do was read out a testimonial, either written by themselves or by that client and then they normally give you that in written forms, so you can put it in your websites or your Facebook pages etc. So, the point is, if that person then endorses you, the people in the room, they might be pretty close with 5 or 6 of the other members who therefore, because you know Bob’s endorsed you. They feel comfortable then referring you to their contacts, as well, if that makes sense. So, the testimonial is the key element.

Nick: Cool, yeah. That’s a pretty good little overview and I like the fact that you’ve all shared that testimonial angle as well, sort of goes beyond just kind of the networking itself but also things like testimonials you can put on your website. So, as you said, which can help people when they’re kind of related in this word of mouth but it’s an additional thing as well as just the networking itself. Just to make sure I got the process down, it sounds like you’re collecting referrals to give to the other people in the group when they come along each week you meet up?

Simon: Yes. We meet weekly generally. We don’t meet up on holidays, you know, if we have a break over Christmas, we generally meet 47, 48 times a year. So, there is a commitment involved but we’ve tried over the 28 year history, we’ve tried other models fortnightly, monthly but we found there was a clear relationship between the frequency of meeting and the amount of business past. One thing I should probably get clear on, if I have a BNI meeting and it’s a Thursday morning and an opportunity comes up to refer business to a Thursday afternoon, I don’t wait until the next Thursday morning to tell the member. Obviously referral’s like milk, they go off pretty quickly so you contact the member straight away but we do the paper work so we can put it into the database each meeting, that makes sense.

Nick: Yah, I was wondering about that a bit. So, you would have the business cards and the contact information of other people in the group that you sort of network with and then when you get that referral, you send it straight through to them and then you document that when you come each week for your meeting?

Simon: Absolutely that is right. Members carry a card holder, although that’s a bit old school these days, so often the referrals wait until the opportunity comes up over the phone or something, so we might send through an e-card or MMS the members date house to the prospect. The key is, so that would just be a lead. The difference between a qualified referral and a lead is we also seek permission from the prospect to have the member call them within the next day and that’s the case. There’s no sitting there waiting for that phone call that never comes in you know. If you just give a business card probably 95% of the time, you never receive that call, not that they’re not genuinely in the market but they just get busy and they get distracted, so we want to empower our members with the opportunity to follow up the prospect.

Nick: Absolutely yeah, that makes sense and I can definitely relate to getting busy and not getting on to things, I was meaning to call this person or whatever, so, that make sense.

Simon: Yeah.

Nick: Let’s move on. I’ve heard some really great things about BNI, I think the first time I heard about it I was at another networking event. Some of it said that they have joined up and then I had to leave within the first three months. They had so much business that they couldn’t take on anymore. It’s an amazing thing to say but I think I’ve heard bits and pieces from other people around the place. So, what do you think is it that has people so, sort of excited about the BNI model even, I mean obviously getting a lot of business is good. Is that just work that way well or is there other things that’s making them getting so excited?

Simon: I think obviously most people are there for the business opportunity. I should be careful about using that sort of language because it might make people think we’re pyramid scheme or multi -level marketing which, absolutely we’re not. There is no kick backs or commissions or anything like that for members introducing another member into the group but most people are there to make money. In fact, really, we want people who are there motivated to make money because we’re founded on the principle of giver’s gain, so what goes around comes around. So, yes, what happens, you end up in a room of 30 to 40 like minded business professionals in a generally go getter types, that are hungry to get work, therefore, they know they’ve got to be hungry to find opportunities. And it’s always quite rewarding when you make an introduction to a family member, a client, whatever and the jobs, you’ve solved their problems.

It’s outside of your personal, professional sphere but you’ve actually made an introduction that solved their problems. So, I think people get a good, warm and fuzzy feeling about that but also because we’re really a training organization. We provide a lot of training at no cost to our members as part of their membership fees so it gives them access to the system but also the training we provide by face to face, one on one, group workshop format and online. We have a 24/7 online training portal as well. So, some people joined for the professional development and you can see that you see members that have been in 3 months, 6 months, 5 years and they’ve really grown as an individual.

You know their public speaking, their confidence etc. So, there are other reasons why people get excited about BNI but it could at the end of the day, most of us that are there are there to increase the bottom line. And I guess people get excited because I figure it is a good return on their time. It’s far more effective than a lot of the other, what I call pay as you go networking events like Adelaide word of mouth etc. There’s some good stuff out there but it doesn’t always translate into good business opportunities, not to say that you shouldn’t do it. As I’ve mentioned before, we recommend members that are involved with other networking groups.

Nick: Awesome, yeah that makes sense. Just a thought on one point, you said there is no kickbacks or commissions [Inaudible 00:15:25] separated differently from any kind of scheme, anything, in that way. Are people expected, is there an expectation on number of referrals you need to bring along, I think you said before, you should try to bring one to each meeting. Is that like an exchange almost, like you should be matching the number of those you get, sort of thing?

Simon: Sure, sure. Look, what goes around comes around, so, if each member in the room is looking to make $50,000, $70,000 a year on average of their return. That means every member in the room needs to bring $50,000 to $70,000 worth of business opportunities to the table as well. So, but BNI’s definitely we’re [Inaudible 00:16:00] to contact sport. We want players, not spectators. So, passengers can actually or each chapter has its own vibe and culture, some chapters do better than others. We’ve got an established chapters that’s been going for about seven or eight years, that meets on Melbourne Street every Friday morning.

They have shared this calendar year and I think that $720,000 worth of business so far. So, that’s referrals that have actually translated into business and we’re not even 4 months to the year. So, the point is, they don’t tolerate passengers, they have high expectations and they hold their members accountable. So, they hold their members accountable and each member makes a commitment and members allow themselves to be held accountable by their fellow members because they’re a high performing chapter. Their results are entered. Did I answer your question? I got a bit side tracked there.

Nick: No, no, that’s alright. I think that’s good, it’s good for people to know that upfront as well that they’re gonna be expected to, the system won’t work if you don’t bring facts onto tables as well as take, you can’t just take, take, take.

Simon: Absolutely, each chapter must have its own goal. Most chapters set a target in terms of those target. Most of them wont set a goal higher that one referral per member per week cause then they’re in danger of lowering the quality of the referrals and you straying into leads territory and what we’d rather do is have a member, when they receive a referral notice, there’s a reasonable change of making a couple of thousand dollars out of that rather than you receiving a piece of confetti that that’s probably worthless.

Nick: Yeah, I think that’s a good point. You mentioned chapters in there, I think I’ll just ask on that point. So, obviously, there’s different chapters within the city I guess and I guess chapters come up when there is enough demand to open up a new chapter? Is that sort of how it works?

Simon: Yeah, that’s absolutely right because we only allow one person per profession. We have unmet demand in Adelaide right now, so we had, the start of last year we had two BNI chapters. By the end of the year, we’d launched the third, they both met in North Adelaide actually and I was a member of one of those chapters that launched about 3 years ago, as I mentioned. So, we launched a chapter in the Marian Aquatic Center, the new aquatic center down there, fantastic venue and that was because of the firstly unmet demand in the Southern and Western suburbs. We then launched two more chapters at the start of this year, one in the Deeps [Audio breaks 00:18:36] area of the for Christy’s Beach.

They made up this surf like serving club down there. There’s some serious wow factor going down to that, it makes going down there bright and early worth it when you see all the ocean views because you are right on the espionade on the second floor and also launched very rapidly, I had a great group of people, some of them had quite a corporate background. So, it got a different culture to some of the other chapters that seem to be built more around the real estate and trades more than the professional services, financial services but we launched a group that meets on Green Hill Road on Parkside and they’re a great group. In the first four weeks together, those 30 people shared over $96,000 worth of business, which for a new group is quite unusual, actually because you’ve got to build up that trust before you put your credibility on the line, making a new introduction to your best client for example. That’s a high risk referral, so they have done a really good job.

Nick: Wow, yeah. Well, if someone is looking to join BNI or join a chapter, is it best for them to go straight to the chapter themselves or do they come to BNI and you sort of tell them because it sounds a little bit like it may be beneficial for people to go to a chapter that sort of fits their culture a little bit better rather than perhaps, closest one?

Simon: You’re absolutely right. In fact, me, as Mr. BNI, I don’t determine who your team to be, some have got five chapters. They’re actually self governed ones, they are off the ground you know. I provide training support but they have a membership committee who is really the HR department and the recruitment department. So, they are the gate keepers of the chapters too. So someone, we had an example of a fantastic guy who is helping me launch a chapter in the CBD. At the moment, we are doing our first meeting next week but he came along to this chapter. I just mentioned that he shared in the $96,000 because they are actively, he’s in recruitment.

They’re actively seeking recruitment agent but when we sat down with their membership committee, they realized even though it was a successful group, just culturally, he wasn’t the right fit, but he’s a great fit for BNI, which is why he’s helping me out putting together with four other guys who are really in the same head space as him and so they’re gonna be a powerful chapter as well but Michael wouldn’t have fitted in as well at the Green Hill Road chapter. I guess by mutual decision, I realized yeah, this is not for you. Now, obviously CBD is pretty close but yeah, if they hadn’t have been available to him, we might have sent him down to Marian or Christy’s Beach if he was prepared to travel that extra distance to find the right groups for him.

Nick: And does BNI actively do some advertising things to get new members and new people involved or is it more just a word mouth thing?

Simon: Yeah, look, as we are a word of mouth organization, we wouldn’t be more credible if we used the Yellow Pages, tv, radio. Look it has been tried, Portugal’s one of the fastest growing BNI regions in the world and they did use tv advertising, a guy in Tasmania that looks after Hobart in the Southern, think it’s a Southern half of Tasmania. He’s tried some radio advertising. I’m not sure what the results have been, but really, the way, 90% of people get involved in BNI is that they get invited along to attend a meeting by someone in their network. Now, sometimes the meeting they go and see, they’re actually locked out of that meeting, so I’ve got a friend who works for Telsra and he’s just really passionate about BNI. He is getting some bright results. He’s meeting at a North Adelaide chapter but his network is in the Western suburbs, so he takes friends and colleagues along to his meeting in North Adelaide. Now, they can’t actually join that North Adelaide chapter because their profession, that seat’s already been filled. What he does is, he redirects them down to a new chapter we’re launching at West Lake, which is suitable culturally and location wise for them but yeah absolutely, he takes them to see his meetings because he’s proud. He figures his chapter is a showcase you know. They have done $720,000 of business in less than 4 months and these people like what they see. They locked out, so Yvonne will help them as a sort of an introduction to me, so I can get them having a look at the West Lake group, make sure they’re happy with the people in that room.

Nick: Awesome, and is the BNI model suited to different types of businesses, like for instance B to B versus B to C or particular industries, maybe like product based industries versus service based industries?

Simon: Look, we know that BNI can work for absolutely any business but it won’t work for every person. Again, we want people who are results oriented, they’re hungry, they’re willing to put in a little bit of time and effort because they understand that what goes around comes around you only get in, you only get out what you put in I should say. Look, we do know that there are particular, I guess professional fees that can do very well out of BNI. We find it is usually service based industries, we’re always seeing very strong industry representation in the real estate and the trade sector, that’s from the backbone and then you’ll see generally a third of the membership base of any chapter is in that real estate and trade area.

So, the real estate agent can feed the mortgage broker, who can feed the conveyance, who can feed the property manager, who feeds all the traders with the maintenance work etc. and also you get, usually you don’t see volume builders involved in BNI but you might get those high end builders who have a premium product because if you place an ad in the Yellow Pages or the messenger, you’re competing on price. Normally, when someone, if it’s pre-sold advertising they are genuinely in the market to buy when they ring, but they’re gonna ring some of your competitors, they generally shop on price. If you are someone who competes on value, not on price you need an unfair advantage of your competitions, so you need that foot in the door the person’s recommendation. So, the builders we tend to see involved, might only do ten homes a year because their homes are half a million dollars.

We will also see looks strong representation those business services and financial services so commercial lending, financial planning, personal risk insurance, general insurance brokers, business coaches, marketing consultants etc. Now, one area that we’re starting to see development in Adelaide is the health and wellbeing, so we’re getting chiropractor, physiotherapist, massage therapist, nutritional products, people like that involved in most chapters. Where we’re not strong in Adelaide currently, but I’ve seen it in the Eastern States, they called it the wedding mafia, so it’s the event planning type profession. So, you’ll see wedding celebrants, you’ll see gift baskets, bouquets, which cook can also go into corporate use. You can see people who can organize entertainment etc. So, that’s a weakness or an opportunity in Adelaide that’s, currently we really don’t have many people in the wedding and event planning type sector. Photographers would be the exception. We’ve got a photographer in virtually every group. In fact, every group I think.

Nick: So, photographers are on top of this obviously but there is a bit of opportunity for some other people in there, the wedding area and also in many other areas as you went through there I think. It seems like this quite broad and as you said, you have to be willing to give in, get back what you put in sort of thing and there is an opportunity for lots of different things there, which is good. With the BNI models, I mean, you mentioned a little bit at the beginning, do you encourage members to use LinkedIn and social media. Has the rise of digital and social media, has that changed much the way you do business? I guess because it’s essentially you are meeting in person and that’s still the major part of it. I guess the core hasn’t changed that much or…?

Simon: Yeah look, we’re still all about face to face contact, however, some of our members particularly our under 35s are starting to use social media to actually put it out there, so, using social media to generate interest in getting visitors to come along and see the meetings. They’re also responding to requests through LinkedIn groups. Someone might, I’ve seen it myself, say hey, do you know a good business coach in the Central areas and someone that’s connected with them or is involved in that group who’s also in BNI would then speak with the person online and maybe they can find a referral out of that.

We actually have a fantastic member Colts [Inaudible 00:27:28] Douglas, I don’t know if you know of his social media IOK. She’s now the Vice President of that top performing chapter in Melbourne Street and she’s working with me, we’re actually going to be rolling out a social media strategy from July of this year and providing additional training as well as. Leaders, initially, as I said each chapter self-governed and then hopefully in 2014, if we can prove the models valuable, then we’ll be rolling it out to a general membership. I think the key is, any training we provide in BNI, it’s not just BNI training. Much of it is transferable for people to use in their own business.

Nick: Cool, yeah. I have also come across someone. She’s very active in the Adelaide Business Central Facebook group which BNI came up again that’s what made me get in contact with you, so I’m reminded of BNI through her so, obviously, it’s working, the social media stuff from that perspective. One other question here….

Simon: I just gonna say, so we do test and measure everything. Simone is one of the top three members in Adelaide. She’s using social media as you have seen widely, so there is probably something in that. So, Simone and I obviously need to talk more.

Nick: Cool, yeah, absolutely. I just have one question on members, which I didn’t address before which is, most members tend to be there for the long time or is there a bit of a turn over there? What can you give me on that?

Simon: Absolutely. As I said, BNI doesn’t work for everyone. Now, our membership committees are the gate keepers so, we had a reasonably extensive interview and follow up process to make sure that people are the right fit because we don’t want to damage the brand by having people come in with the wrong expectations and it just doesn’t work for them. So, we do find that about 15% of their membership will either not renew when their 12 months come to an end or they may even leave midterm, but we have members we have a painter in Simone’s chapter who has been a [Inaudible 00:29:38] I think, 7 or 8 years and we’ve got several members in her group that have been in for five years.

We just awarded some 3 year ribbons. So, you know it’s a great testimony to the system when someone has been in for that long but we also see people like you mentioned, that if – I actually gave referral to an HR consultant that was in my chapter. He left in his second year and he rang me up and was so apologetic but what I’ve given him has turned into a three day a week contract and with his other work, he simply couldn’t take on anymore business. Therefore, what is the point of turning up every week if he didn’t want to take anything on and he was too busy to give back to the group. He didn’t want to be a passenger. So, we do find that for the life circumstance or for business reasons, people leave. So, sometimes leaving is not a negative thing, it’s a positive thing.

Nick: Cool, yeah, great answer. With this question here, was something that sort of gave me pause, when I first heard of BNI and I touched on it a little bit but I’m asking it anyway, want to get a clear answer. So, one thing I felt I wasn’t too sure about was, I didn’t want to be giving, having an expectation to give referrals and sort of being pushed towards giving referrals to people what I know friends, family, other clients and people within my business networks and referring them to other businesses that I didn’t really know that well because I have only met them through the group and I hadn’t really had a chance to try out their services. What would you say to people that have this sort concern?

Simon: That would be probably the number 1 concern that people, well probably number 1 is the commitment because really, the money expected returns is rarely a consideration, so is that weekly commitment is a challenge for a lot of people and the next highest concern, is they don’t feel confident that they can bring referrals out, particularly because 5 or 10% of members we get might have been introduced to BNI by someone interstate. So, they don’t actually someone in the group they already trust because we talked before about the testimonials. Most people are invited into BNI group by someone they know and trust and so, if that person is happy to endorse another half dozen in the chapter, then as a new member, you’ll often give them a go because you trust your friend’s judgment.

As we touched on before, the real estate agent didn’t etc. isn’t going, you’re probably not gonna use this person’s service yourself. So you know, one thing in business and in life and such as BNI, a lot of business coaches would say this. How you do one thing is how you do everything, perception is reality for the person who is perceiving it, so one thing you can do is always bring your A game when you come to a meeting. Arrive early, plan to stay late, dress sharp, even if you are a trade, come prepared and people will start to think well, if they front up to BNI meeting with that mindset and attitude, then they’re probably gonna front up to a meeting with a client, at least if not with a higher setting. Now, we also know that as a new member, you’re probably not give a lot of referrals in your first 2 or 3 months, so we have a system that sits behind BNI, which is designed to help people build their credibility within the group. We called it the BCTP process. So, firstly, you need to be visible but then you need opportunities to build your credibility because as you know if you give a referral and it doesn’t go well, it falls back on you. So, you need to trust the person you’re passing the referral to, so everything on that 40 point agenda and the other components of the system that for the rest of the week outside of the weekly meeting, I designed for the members to be able to build their trust and credibility levels within the group even if most of the members can’t personally use their service.

So, we say so probably the higher the average value of the transaction of your product or service, the more risk to the referrer. So, you would probably, if you join the group Nick, feel reasonably comfortable if you give the referral to that Florist that we talked about before cause you know $5,000 you know, okay maybe the flowers were slightly brown around the edges but it’s probably not gonna kill your credibility with your best client but you know if it was an introduction into the accountant and I stuffed it up, that would be really bad for you. So you’re absolutely not expected to start passing referrals on day 1, particularly those high value ones. So, it’s up to the other members, they actually put in the time and effort so that you feel comfortable referring business to them.

Nick: Cool yeah that’s a great answer and you did answer it a little bit before but it’s not that sort of in a package there. Just on the back of that then, do you have any tips for people on how they can get the most out of BNI just things that you can give to my listeners?

Simon: I would say I’ve touched on some of them. Don’t be late because we say that you know we’ve got a yes bucket and a no bucket sitting on your shoulder at all times with your BNI members, so if you woke up late to a meeting and people notice it, are they thinking, is he gonna walk up late when I introduce him to my client? If you come in if looking like you just rolled out of bed, what are they thinking? Most of our meetings are 7am by the way. So, again if you’re a tradee and you wrapped up your painter for example Jeff never walks up in his overalls with paint stains on them and dusty boots.

He’s always in a nice logoed shirt with slacks because he’s trying to set that right perception. He wants introduction into property managers and boutique builders and so forth, so he needs to position himself so everything’s aligned. So, that’s one thing, you know, dress for success and think about all those little 1% that are gonna affect people’s perception of you. Absolutely, look, please embrace all the training we have to offer. As I said, the training is free, I put to caveat on that. Members always pay towards venue high and catering cost but the actual content that we deliver, there’s no, we don’t get paid an extra fee for you actually accessing the training, so embrace the training opportunities. Speak with the experienced members in the group, you know they’ll provide some 1 on 1 mentoring and support the other thing is and this probably the number 1 thing don’t just be a 90 minute a week member because you will not succeed. So, we have a 90 minute structured meeting every week but you need to actually be doing some activity outside the meeting. We think you should be putting in 3 to 5 hours a week, probably no more that that because a lure of diminishing returns but we encourage you to go out 1 on 1 and meet the other members in their work place. And in return, they want to do the same for you.

If members asked for specific introductions, you should take note of that and maybe a day or two after the meeting you might not have triggered something in memory at the time but just review those notes and actually I don’t know this from xyz company but I know their biggest competitor. In fact, they’re a client of mine, ring up the member, hey, I know you asked for Bob Jane, would you like an introduction to Bridgestone instead, that sort of thing. So, put in some time and effort outside of the meeting as well as being bringing your A game to every meeting that you attend.

Nick: Great yeah. Thanks for those tips. How can people find out more if they’re interested in getting sort of signing up for a chapter or just checking out a little bit more about it?

Simon: Yeah look, if they don’t have a friend or someone in their contact, they are free to personally introduce them to BNI because as I said it is always – I feel the best way, just like you approached me, you made an enquiry through BNI.com.au, through the website that they’ll get in contact with me. I’ll follow them up, normally with a phone call if they leave up their number and we’ll have a bit of a chat. I need to understand where they’re located, what profession they’re in, to know where they’re vacancies, and chances are, when they front up at that meeting you know, with 30 odd people in the room, usually they actually know someone in the room.

They might have not realized that there was a BNI member but they normally, they have someone that can take them under their wing because they’ve had that prior relationship, but if you don’t have someone, just do what you did, enquire through the website. I’ll get on to you within one business day, unless I’m traveling. So, I also manage BNI in Darwin but look they’ll hear from me within 2 to 3 business days, the absolute worst.

Nick: Great. So, if you know someone already who’s in BNI then you can get in through them or BNI.com.au for the link and I’ll show next on our website, how to get you in contact.

I think that pretty much brings me to the end of all the questions I had. Thanks very much Simon for coming on the show. Its been a really interesting sort of delve into this BNI thing that I’d heard about but I didn’t know all of what it was about, so I think the information you’ve given has been really great.

Simon: Fantastic and if you are interested to connect with me you connect with Simone and we can -you’ve never been to a meeting yourself right?

Nick: No, I haven’t. Just heard about it from the people on the call and I think it could be interesting.

Simon: It is probably worth even if it’s not for you, it’s probably worth two hours of your time, just to check it out and maybe go along to Simone to her group. It might be the best for you, as you got – is that a virtual relationship, or do you guys know each other face to face?

Nick: No, we’ve not interacted that much. I mean I saw this Adelaide business Central group but I came across it, anyone who’s curious and I’ll put a link in the show as well. It’s quite a big group it’s like 800 people and they’re all talking about different things and I just see Simone in there fairly often posting. We haven’t interacted personally that much so I don’t know her that well but it’s a good group to go to and meet people there. So, yeah thanks again for coming to the show and we’ll speak perhaps in the future?

Simon: Alright fantastic, really appreciate the opportunity. Thanks Nick.


Stop Missing Great Adelaide Business Events!

Subscribe below for a weekly digest of upcoming events
so you can pick and choose those you'd like to attend.

Share this article!