It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, you have to build visibility and then move to credibility and from credibility to profitability. It’s a chronological process that begins with visibility. People have to know who you are and what you do.
This journey from visibility to credibility to profitability is known as the ‘VCP process‘, a registered trademark of BNI. Master networkers know that networking, including BNI, is really about moving through the VCP process and not about closing deals.
However, some networkers get the cart before the horse and end up with what Dr Ivan Misner calls the ‘Networking Disconnect‘. This is where people attend a networking event with the mistaken idea that they are there to make a sale.
In a BNI podcast, Dr Misner talks about a large networking event he attended in the UK. One of the speakers was Frank De Raffele.
He asked the audience a couple of questions, which I thought were just brilliant. The first question was, “How many of you in the audience came here today hoping to do some business, maybe make a sale? Raise your hand.” There were over 500 people. Well over half of the people in the audience, a large number of people, raised their hand. He then said, “Okay great. Thank you. One more question: How many of you here, raise your hand, came here today hoping to buy something?” Not a single person raised their hand. Not a single person.
That, I believe, is the Networking Disconnect. People all too often come to networking events hoping to sell something, but they never come hoping to buy something. So if you are going to a networking event hoping to sell something, you are dreaming. Don’t confuse direct selling with networking. Effective networking is about developing relationships.
Now, I know, there is always somebody out there who says, “But Ivan, I have made a sale out there while attending a networking event.” Okay. I am not saying it doesn’t ever happen. I am just saying it happens about as often as a solar eclipse. I mean, even a blind squirrel can find a nut. You can stumble on a business. Any business person can stumble on some business at a networking meeting from time to time.
However, when you have everyone at a networking event trying to sell and no one there trying to buy, you are crazy if you think that the odds are in your favor to sell something at a networking event. So why go? You go because networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It is about developing relationships with other professionals.
Sometimes you go to a networking event to increase your visibility. Sometimes you go to establish further credibility. That is what BNI is about. There are many different kinds of networking events. What I have been talking about here are networking events in general. But when it comes to BNI in particular, you shouldn’t be going to BNI meetings thinking, hey, I’m going to go today so I can sell something. The idea in BNI is to further increase your credibility to teach people how to refer you. That can lead to business, and you may get a referral that day, but that is different from trying to make a sale that day.