Be a Value Creator

You have people who mistakenly come into a group who think that the concept of networking is that you go into a group and say, "Hey, open up your Rolodex and show it to me, and I will pick who I want out of there in order to get new business." I call that the popcorn mentality—the idea that it's going to happen fast and be a simple two-step process. You join and BAM! You have a new list of leads to call.

That’s the opposite of networking, which is very much the art of developing relationships. The old adage that anything worth working for takes time and commitment is true. Once people trust you, they will open up their heart and introduce you to the people they know who can help you. It has been said that networking is more like the law of the farm. You have to plant your seed, nurture it, and wait for the harvest.

Seasoned and skillful networkers understand this. They know that if they show up in a sell-only mode, they will alienate themselves from the rest of the group. It is counterproductive. I often see guests and novice networkers who just want to come to the group and sell. They might as well have a scarlet letter on their chest because in short order, the real networkers in the group will avoid them like the plague. In networking meetings, these types earn a reputation. Members see them coming and quickly find someone else to engage with.

If you have a sales-first mentality, you are forgetting the first premise of networking. Not only are you going to offend a lot of people, you’re never going to have the opportunity to cross the initial barrier of trust and gain access to referrals. If people don’t feel important to you beyond the sale, they certainly aren’t going to send people they love and respect your way to get the same treatment. You really have to be cognizant of the fact that you’re going to a networking environment first and foremost to build relationships.

Making the Change

At NIA®, we welcome the seasoned networkers as well as those who are excited to learn a better way.

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Learn the Right Questions

When you meet people and ask them what they do, be prepared to ask a few follow-up questions, such as:

  • Who is your ideal client?
  • What needs are you currently looking to fill in your business?
  • Who is your ideal contact, or who is already working with the kind of people who are your ideal clients?

Not only are these questions going to better position you to find qualified referrals for the people you’re connecting with, but your sincerity and genuine interest in serving them will open the door to a reciprocal relationship.

It is also important to learn the right questions to ask your friends and family members to see where you can help fill their needs with your extensive network. One of the things we do in our meetings pretty early on—and the reason we do it is to help everyone in the group to understand the value every single member brings—is an exercise in which you leave the meeting, not with a sale, but with three qualifying questions from every member and business in the group that you can ask your friends. If you know the questions to ask, then the answers will help you dictate who to refer to. In addition, you are able to better meet the needs of your friends and families by leading them to the people who can help them with their relevant and timely needs.

Qualifying questions may include:

  • “Who are you currently using for your pest control?”
  • “When was the last time you checked to see if you are getting the most affordable car insurance?”
  • “Have you had your HVAC serviced lately? It’s important to do that before the change in seasons.”
  • “What’s one habit you feel is keeping you from allowing you to be as successful as possible?”
  • “Do you feel like your team members are working as efficiently as possible and are committed to your company’s objectives?”

As you can see, these questions are aimed at revealing the real needs of the people who are already in your life. When you are able to connect the two parties, you have served everyone. These questions are powerful tools in creating more value in all of your relationships and are on each one of our members' profiles on our website. This is also true for you. When you share your own qualifying questions on your profile, the other members are able to become spokespeople for you as well.

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Come to Serve

In order to be successful in networking, you must first understand what networking is really all about. It is about creating relationships, and the only way you’re going to build a relationship is by positioning yourself as a giver who can be trusted. When you walk through the doors, let your biggest question be, “How can I create value for the people I meet?” When you start out with that giving attitude, you will naturally attract people to you. That is what lies at the heart of networking.

Even when you meet someone who is not a good fit for the product or service you offer, you can be thinking about who you know who is the best fit for the person you’re talking to. When you are sincerely listening and sincerely care about the needs of others, you are positioned to help fill those needs in some way.

Fundamentally, at the end of the day, the biggest difference between NIA® and any other networking group is that our whole model is crafted to ensure we are adding value to our members and not meeting to impress the guests. We are meeting to serve you.

When you go to network, remember that you are there for a reason, which is to try and learn as much as you can about other people’s businesses. For NIA® members, this includes their families, what they do on vacation, what drives them as business owners, and their personal challenges and victories. That is the kind of relationship that facilitates deep and meaningful connections. When you know and trust each other, you will refer to each other. That kind of depth requires you to be somewhat vulnerable and open. If that vulnerability doesn’t come easily to you, or if you aren’t a natural networker, you will have a period of time where you have to overcome a measure of discomfort to get there. It helps to be prepared with the right questions that will immediately show your readiness to connect and offer value.

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Owners vs. Employees

Business owners seem to better understand the fact that when you build relationships, multiple sales will follow. They understand that this takes time. One of the accidental consequences of Network In Action’s model of holding monthly instead of weekly meetings is that we have more business owners in our group than sales people. This means we are able to assemble groups of people who understand these principles from the get go.

In addition, there's no pressure on the business owners to run back to the office and say they got a sale. But if you're the sales person in the group, you're typically there because the business owner doesn't want to attend a weekly meeting. You have to go back to the sales manager or the owner and tell him what you've done every week, and you want to be able to say you got a sale. The very nature of the weekly meeting creates an environment where there are more people there who are interested in selling than networking.

Let go of the popcorn mentality that you have to leave with a sale. Instead, keep the mentality that, no matter what happens, at the end of the day, you have amplified your reach and now have more people who are able to talk about your business with others than you ever have before in your life.

For some people, this understanding comes easily. For others, they just can’t get there. And if you can’t get there, you are not going to find networking to be an effective way to grow your business or bring meaningful business to others. This will lead you to find fault with and criticize the leader, the model, the industry, and everyone in the group when, in reality, you didn’t go there with the right purpose in the first place.

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Building Your Community Through Service

At a Network In Action meeting North of Houston in the Woodlands, there are small groups of people scattered around the room busily discussing what charities and local service projects they want to get behind. During the discussion, it comes out that two of its group members have children with juvenile diabetes. One of those members volunteered just a few days before to head up this year’s Juvenile Diabetes Gala. The night he agreed to do that, he lay in bed with his eyes wide open, wondering where he was possibly ever going to get all the volunteers he needed to pull off that gala. However, when the NIA® group hears that two of its members have children with this disease, the entire group volunteers to work the gala in the fall. His problem of recruiting volunteers is over!

The gala ends up being a success, and today, that group is still heavily involved with raising money and participating in this annual event.

This emphasis on service and giving back is at the core of who we are as a company. It’s not separate from our culture—it is our culture. As we continue to grow the company and continue to make this a requirement, we want this to be our hallmark.

My last business was very lucrative, easily bringing in seven figures annually for a number of years. I always talked about creating a foundation, but never did it. It’s one of the great regrets of my life. We didn’t start where I felt we needed to first—which is to be socially responsible and conscious of those who aren’t as blessed as we might be. I decided when we started NIA® that we would not make that mistake again. With NIA®, we put first things first. We decided from day one that every one of our franchises would participate in some kind of community outreach project each year in order to give back to the communities that have been so good to us.

Therefore, when we sit down with prospective franchise owners, one of the things we always ask is, “What are you doing charitably?” We ask that question prior to the disclosure that heading up these projects is going to be one of their responsibilities as an owner. We want to make sure the seeds of that service are already there. It’s at the core of NIA®, how we choose our leaders, and how we choose our group members.

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Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

Our platform is geared toward creating actual relationships with other group members. As you take the time to form meaningful relationships with each member in your group, you will be able to do more than just pass along a phone number. When you refer a member from any industry, you’ll be able to honestly say, “This is a good guy. You’ll like him,” or “This is a trustworthy woman. She will bring integrity to your project.” You can say that with confidence because you can trust that the franchise owners have done their job and properly vetted the member.

These kinds of details make a difference, especially in our culture. They create an immediate emotional connection, which makes your prospect more likely to call. Research shows that people make decisions about whether to buy with their emotions first, and then use logic to justify the decision they’ve already made.

This is not only applicable to the referral or referee scenario. It is applicable to your relationships with the people you refer as well. If other members sincerely know and like you, your name and company are going to come to their minds much more readily when it’s time to pass it along. Your fellow group members will be able to refer you as confidently as you are able to refer them.

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The Personality Profile

Before we approve your membership application for NIA®, we need to make sure that we are a good fit for each other. Your personality profile will reveal a bit about you and the way you value others. If you aren’t interested in forming relationships with the people you’re doing business with and business for, then we don’t want to waste your time. We have built our entire model around relationships. We are not in the business of transactions. We are in the business of people. At the end of the day, we live by our mantra: “Network In Action—helping people build relationships that last a lifetime.”

This is one of the main reasons we teach our franchise owners to never chase people. We recognize that if you have to chase someone now, the reality is that you will likely have to continue to chase that person once that individual is in the group. We don’t want our leaders to stuff their groups full of warm bodies for the sake of numbers. We make sure they are committed to building out groups of committed people. That is the best way to ensure the health and success of each collective group as well as the individual members themselves.

One of the greatest joys I have is going out with new franchise owners who are obviously eager and excited to build up their groups. Early on, they may have only three or four members, but then I see them meet with someone and, after the interview, they walk outside and say, “You know, I just don’t think I want that person in my group.” That’s when I know that we have trained them properly. It’s not about getting the transaction—it’s about enrolling the type of people who are committed to building relationships.

I had an appointment with a business owner and potential member, and as we sat down to talk, I just didn’t feel comfortable with him. He just seemed “slippery”. When we got to the end of the discussion and talked about our guaranteed ROI, he said he wanted thirty audiovisual jobs, “And I don’t hang TVs.” As we closed up the meeting, I walked back to my car thinking, Well, you’re not going to hang anything for Network In Action members because you’re not a fit for this group.

We look for people who have reasonable expectations for their results and who ask questions like, “Who are the other members of the group? Tell me about the makeup of your membership. I want to make sure I can be a help to them and refer other people to them.”

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Refer With Confidence

When you give a referral to your friends, family members, or other contacts, you are taking responsibility, at least in some measure, for the outcome. The idea is that those who trust you will also trust your referral. By extension, you carry some of the responsibility for the quality of the work of the person you refer.

But how can you be sure that you are lending your trust to someone who deserves it? If, God forbid, you pass a referral and there is a criminal element involved, that reflects poorly on you. In most organized networking models, there are zero checks and balances when it comes to the character or background of the people who are enrolling. Your business isn’t required to have five-star reviews in order for you to join. You aren’t personally required to have a clean criminal record. You aren’t vetted in any other way besides your ability to write a check. Sure, meeting with them regularly gives you a sense of comfort and familiarity, but you don’t really know what that person’s background looks like. So, how can you be sure that you are referring people who will protect your reputation as well as theirs?

At Network In Action, we make sure that you can always refer with confidence. Many companies join our networking groups for that reason alone. Recently, one new member, a CPA, commented that, “By joining NIA®, I will have quality companies to refer my customers to that I can trust.” She was confident in that statement because we vet all prospective members before they are allowed to join. Each member has successfully passed a criminal background check and undergone a personality profile test. The criminal background check looks at anything that might have happened that would reflect poorly on you or the NIA® community. This means you can trust that when you refer anyone in NIA® to one of your personal contacts you have some security in who is doing the work.

In the early days of NIA®, I had an experience where I drove out to an appointment with our franchise owner west of Houston. When I got there a few minutes late, I saw they’d left a note on the door for me to join them at a restaurant just down the street. Once I arrived, I was uncomfortable in that small booth space talking to the prospective member—an attorney—about NIA® while he was already enjoying his big burger. The longer I stayed, the more uncomfortable I became. There was something about this guy’s intensity and demeanor that was off-putting and cold. He stared at me with eyes that looked more like they belonged to an addict than an attorney.

As soon as I finished talking to him about NIA®, he immediately wanted to join. Our new franchise owner was eager to add a member, and I didn’t have the heart to turn him down based on my own gut feelings. We signed him up, had him fill out the personality profile, and ran his background check. He scored extremely low on the personality profile, and as if that weren’t enough, there was one small issue when we received the background report back at corporate: a conviction for manslaughter!

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NIA Business Networking Technology

A friend of mine joined a local networking group in Houston a couple of years ago and was told he had to attend an orientation class before he would be allowed to become a member of the group. This particular friend is a seasoned business owner and accomplished networker. I promise you that he could teach all of us a thing or two about networking. However, he was told in no uncertain terms that it was important that he be introduced into The BNI® Way.

Reluctantly, he agreed to attend and, as often happens in this big old city, he found himself running ten minutes late due to traffic problems. He showed up outside a locked door. After much banging on the door, the moderator finally made his way over to my friend and told him very pointedly that “showing up late was not the BNI® way,” and that he was going to have to return at another time. I cannot print here what his response was.

Fast forward two years, and he’s sipping wine at home while he’s watching the Network In Action tutorials from his phone—doing things The NIA® Way.

He has been a great contributor to his NIA® group for years.

In today’s world where our on-demand, technology-driven culture has made its way into every industry, the lack of technology in the world of networking groups is mind-boggling. It’s ridiculous and unnecessary to require you to take a few hours out of your busy schedule to learn how to be a good, loyal Kool-Aid drinker of whatever networking group you just joined. Most weekly, early-morning meetings run by volunteers rely on little slips of pink paper to keep track of referrals—both for the accounting of referrals from the collective group and for you personally to send and receive referrals. If you don’t happen to have one of those little slips of paper in your back pocket when you come across a referral for someone in your group, oh well! It’s frustrating watching all of these reports being given based on those bits of paper. Can that possibly be accurate? What if you did happen to capture a referral, but the paper ended up in the wash? Or crumpled up at the bottom of your purse? Or left on a countertop somewhere? It’s just not practical.

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Monthly Meetings: Higher-Quality Members

By holding meetings once a month, we are finding that more and more business owners are signing up and taking the time to attend—whereas weekly meetings tend to attract the employees and sales representatives. The truth of the matter is that if you ask business owners whether they have an extra one hundred hours they can block out of their calendar over the next twelve months, they are going to look at you like you’re crazy. However, we all know the importance of networking, so typically owners will send their salesperson in their place. But who would you rather network with? When you set up a one-to-one, you want to make sure you’re sitting across from the person who has the authority to write you a check and, better yet, has the power to refer you.

The majority of members are business owners

"Network In Action is for experienced professionals interested in networking. The majority of members are business owners with years of experience. I appreciate my group leader, Moose Rosenfeld, for his hands-on involvement in vetting potential members to ensure he is bringing in great referral partners."

Paula Marion
Simple Operational Solutions, Owner
NIA® Bellaire Group

In addition, holding fewer meetings attracts and retains higher numbers than the average early-morning get-together. The standard organized networking group averages fourteen members. We require our groups to be a minimum of twenty-five members, and many of our groups are maintaining long-term membership numbers of thirty-five or more. It’s not hard to figure out why. It’s just easier to book something into your regular schedule when it’s not asking so much of you.

At NIA®, we like to think that we ask you for less and deliver more.

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Monthly Meetings: Expanded Networking Opportunities

I’m not sure which has exits clearing faster—Sunday morning church services or an early-morning networking group! You better not be near the door at the end, or you risk getting run over before you’re even out of the parking lot. When you’re meeting before your workday starts, you are going to be in a hurry to get out of there and start checking things off your to-do list. If you’re a business owner, you may have already missed a number of important calls just during breakfast.

I love the mini-meets!

"I loved the mini-meet today! It was great to see those who were there. NIA®’s mini-meets are often more well-attended than my other networking group’s mandatory meetings."

Scott Adelman
Adelman Insurance Services
NIA® Katy Connectors Group

This is one reason why we don’t hold early-morning meetings. Though our franchise contract allows franchise leaders to hold meetings when they like, we encourage all of our franchise owners to hold them in the afternoon. Today, 100 percent of the ninety-minute NIA® meetings are in fact being held between 3:00-5:00 p.m. in cities across the country. The impact of an afternoon meeting is that members are able to stay and visit with each other when it’s over.

By holding meetings in the afternoon, usually at the end of the workday, you have the time to visit. You can set up one-on-ones with other members in your group, ask more questions about a referral someone gave you, or just get to know members better in a relaxed atmosphere. You have the time to build relationships, which is ultimately what networking is all about. This means that you have the opportunity to come and more completely do what you came to do.

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Monthly Meetings

Keith Duke sat in his chair, trying hard not to roll his eyes. It was 7:23 on a Tuesday morning. He had been up since 5:00. The drone of familiar voices around him, saying the same thing they said last week, and the week before, and the week before, made him restless in his seat. He understood the value of networking, but doing it this way—the way he’d always done it—was starting to take its toll on him.

“Before I found Network In Action, I had been in an organized networking organization for several years, and it had run its course for me. I was tired of the weekly meetings—of standing up and saying what I do every time, and if I had to hear the pest control person say he kills bugs one more time, I was going to go insane. I had to find something a step above the rest.”

One of the reasons he was first drawn to sign up as an NIA® member was because of our unique model of holding meetings once a month versus once a week. In fact, this is one of the biggest reasons people are either leaving traditional networking groups and looking for an alternative.

There are thousands of people across the country who recognize the need for networking, but they either don’t want to or simply can’t attend weekly, early-morning networking meetings. Some people join local chapters anyway in hopes that they can make it work and then either leave or are kicked out after missing more than a couple meetings per year. Either way, the end results are the same: they just flushed hundreds of dollars in membership fees down the drain, and they are back where they started.

There are several reasons you may not be able to consistently attend weekly gatherings: Perhaps your clients span the United States and you are required to travel often. Maybe you are the parent responsible for getting your children dressed and fed in the morning before they go to school. Many business owners are up at dawn putting out fires and don’t even breathe until after lunchtime. You may be one of the majority of Americans who don’t particularly like getting up before the sun. Or, perhaps you are like many others who are currently attending the weekly ritual of repetition, and you’re just done with it.

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Monthly Meetings: Saving Time

The first and most obvious benefit to having a once-a-month meeting is the amount of time that you save. This networking model gives you some additional eighty-plus hours in your schedule every year. You are able to carve out more time in your life and in your business for the things that are most important without sacrificing the value of being part of an organized group of people who are all supporting each other’s business growth.

It’s less time consuming, and I still get the same results, if not more

"One of the things that’s been an issue for me with all the other groups that I attend is time. I am practicing law, so it’s impossible for me to be out developing my business and practicing law at the same time. One of the great things about NIA® is we only have to get together for our meetings once a month. It’s less time consuming, and I still get the same results, if not more, by being part of NIA® than I did from the other groups I was involved with. In fact, this is by far the group I’ve had the most success getting business from."

Suzanne DuBose
NIA® Houston Group

Even the few hours you save every week make a big impact on your day. A recent study suggests that losing as little as thirty minutes of sleep can increase your insulin resistance, which raises your risk of diabetes and obesity. There are studies that have tracked the correlation between having to set the clocks back in the spring (i.e. losing an hour of sleep) and higher incidents of car accidents. In his article Sleep Habits: More Important Than You Think, clinical psychologist Michael Breus, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, says that reducing your nighttime sleep by as little as ninety minutes for just one night can reduce your daytime alertness by as much as 32 percent. This cuts your work productivity by almost a third! Multiply that effect by four weeks, and you’re potentially losing over a day’s worth of productivity every month. How much is it costing you to wake up a couple of hours earlier once a week, in addition to the loss of your beauty sleep? (And let’s face it—some of us need that more than others.)

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Professional Community Builders vs. Volunteers | Building Relationships That Last a Lifetime

Most major networking group in America is run by a volunteer or is a non-profit organization. The fact that we have paid leadership is a unique identifier of Network In Action. However, for our franchise owners, the money always follows their passion for building a successful group. It truly is not about the money. It is about creating value for our members—it is about creating value for you. Look at it this way: You can get your nephew to build you a website, or you can pay someone to build it. The professional, trained expert you pay is always going to do a better job. Period. This principle is true for everything. When you ask someone to give you something for free, you are likely to get what you paid for. In a typical networking group today, the group is run by the next man or woman up, which is most often determined by who served as last year’s volunteer vice president. This annual migration of leadership leaves many groups wandering aimlessly while the new leaders find their way. A volunteer lawyer, CPA, realtor, or whoever it is who is next up is just not going to care as much about a networking group as a vested professional. With NIA®, we are breaking the mold and doing things a different way. We are proving that better leaders build better groups!

We aren’t just simply paying our leaders. We aren’t offering a job opportunity with rebates on enrollments. Our groups are set up as franchisees with owners who have to first make an investment in order to have the rights to operate an NIA® group. These investments are not made lightly, and they ensure your leaders’ commitment to the purpose and integrity of NIA’s model.

Each franchise owner is a professionally-trained Community Builder, which means they are every bit “the professional” you would look for when hiring for any other task in your business.

Focused on YOU

Our franchise owners have a financial stake in the success of the group. That means that in addition to taking the time to help your business grow, they are personally invested into making sure it does. They are always thinking ahead on your behalf. They understand that your success is necessary for the group’s success. They want to make sure you have every opportunity possible to build relationships with the types of business owners and decision makers who can impact your business in a positive way. When NIA® franchise owners leave a monthly meeting, they are typically leaving and going right back to work on group-building strategies.

By joining the NIA® group, you essentially hire a professional matchmaker to keep an eye out for the people looking for your products or services. This completely takes the risk out of your investment and is a service that is unique to NIA®.

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Guaranteed ROI | Building Relationships That Last a Lifetime

In 1962, David Oreck was selling heavy upright vacuum cleaners to hotels all across the United States. During his many business travels, he noticed hotel housekeepers struggling to drag big, heavy vacuum machines all over the hotel property. The drudgery of it was clear as they pulled and pushed their way from one floor to the next. One day, he had a radical idea: What if someone were to design a lightweight, yet powerful, vacuum cleaner to relieve the physical stress of hotel staff all over the world? He approached his employers and tried to convince them to do just that.

As he tells it, he was laughed out of the room and told, “No one would ever buy a lightweight vacuum cleaner.” The Oreck Corporation began as a manufacturer of upright vacuum cleaners for the US hotel industry in 1963. It was a huge success. Bigger than he'd anticipated. Not only did hotels eagerly start buying them, but the hotel staff members themselves started buying these vastly-improved vacuum cleaners for their own use at home. So, David's original idea evolved as the Oreck Corporation began selling its unique products to residential consumers as well. As they say, now you know the rest of the story. Well, not quite.

In 2005, I was dating a woman who sold her candle company to none other than Mr. David Oreck himself. One weekend shortly after the purchase of the candle company, she and I were invited to spend a day on David’s private ranch. The property is breathtaking, with longhorns grazing along the side of his personal runway and an airplane hangar that houses over fifteen restored vintage aircrafts. During the early part of the day, we took turns flying with him in various aircraft around Louisiana and Mississippi. Once the keys to the various planes were locked away, Mr. Oreck proceeded to break out the scotch. That afternoon, he introduced me to fine whiskey and began to ask about my business. I explained to him that we were operating in thirty-seven states and two providences in Canada and that we were in the business of putting our hands into your pockets and legally extracting as much cash as possible.

I remember his response like it was yesterday. “Oh, you are in marketing? What type of business do you think I own?”

I immediately responded, “The vacuum cleaner business, of course!”

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