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How can we move our business associates into business allies through BNI and networking?

by Richard Foulkes

Last week we looked at the “Accident to Allies” model by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon, where we saw our network as a bullseye, with each circle representing a different networking relationship. The ultimate goal is to have a group of Allies around us who will help us grow our business. But building a group of allies takes effort.

There are a few steps between the Associate circle and the Allies circle: Associates become Actors, Actors become Advocates, Advocates become Allies, So how do we move from one circle to another?

Your BNI “Associates“

Today we’re going to look at where our BNI colleagues sit in these networking circles – the Associates.

An Associate is a person who belongs to a group to which you belong. That means you’ll see them repeatedly. This happens with BNI members at our weekly meetings.

Associates, who you’ll see repeatedly, are your most straightforward contacts to develop.

•On average, it can take six to eight months of BNI meetings before two people know and trust each other enough to go to bat for each other.

•Make it easy for the members to try a “sample” of your business for themselves. It’s not always possible for all members to do this, but the door prize is a good opportunity to give away something that leads to a greater understanding of what you do.

But it does take more than just showing up ….

Associates Become Actors

Remember, an Associate is someone you see regularly – your BNI chapter members. So, what’s the difference between an Associate and an Actor?

An Actor is someone with whom you exchange something of value. This could be a tip, a resource, or some information. Actors are people with whom you are actively trading. When you give first, you plug into the basis for solid networking relationships: The Givers Gain® Principle. It goes like this; If you give somebody something, they will try harder to give you something back. Others in the group want to help people who they see actively helping their fellow members.

The easiest way to do this is by sharing helpful information – in your weekly presentations (60 secs), your feature presentations (ten minutes) and in your one-to-ones. One-to-ones need to be more than just a catch up and more than just once. Look around the room and book another one-to-one with members you’ve only met with once. It’s not always about selling or promoting yourself. What useful information and advice can you give away to demonstrate your expertise and to help your fellow chapter members?

Actors Become Advocates

We then want our Actors to become our Advocates. Advocates know you so well and trust you so completely that, when they see an opportunity with your name on it, they’ll grab it and give it to you. Because you’ve taught them so much about yourself, they’ll unhesitatingly pass your name along to others. Advocates can give vivid examples of you in action, serving a client, saving the day, or solving a problem.

So how do you do this? Again, through your weekly presentations (60-secs), and in your one-to-ones:
What complaints can people listen out for?
What is an example of a recent sale you’ve made?
Can you share a story of a recent client interaction or transaction?
Who have you worked with recently?
What does an opportunity for your business look like?
Give examples of easy ways you can be introduced to prospective referrals.

Advocates Become Allies

Finally, in the centre circle, you’ll have a few Allies. Allies are on your personal board of directors. They are likely serving the same client type as you. They know where you’re headed and will do all they can to help you reach your goals. They will actually seek out opportunities for you. And you’ll do the same for them. They’ll celebrate with you when things go well, as well as commiserate with you – and even tell you the truth – when things go wrong.

So how do you do this? Again, through your weekly presentations (60 secs) each week, and in your one-to-ones:

1. Share your business goals with your BNI colleagues.
2. Ask for help – don’t be afraid to admit you have areas that need work.
3. Be willing to help others – can you create a hub within your group?

Visibility, Credibility, Profitability (VCP)

The best way to develop your contacts so that you eventually have a strong group of Allies who will help you grow your business is to remember the BNI principle of VCP – Visibility, Credibility, Profitability.

Show up. Prepare your weekly presentations. Have at least 1 one-to-one each week. Share your expertise. Help your chapter members. Go beneath the surface. It’s a proven formula.

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