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Networking—It’s More Than Just Talking Business

BNI  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Business Networks International (BNI) concept of  GAINS (Goals, Accomplishments, Interest, Networks, and Skills) helps members develop personal relationships with members.  Personal interests between two people leads to connections and can be one of the keys to developing business.  Dr. Misner, BNI’s founder, couples this with Tom Peters’ concept of 1) do it, 2)fix it, 3)try it; with a suggestion that members spend time and effort working on their profiles to better connect with their team.  The concept is further described in BNI Podcast Episode 5.

Well, the fact that networking is more than just talking business, and when I started BNI, my primary focus was, “Hey, it’s all about business; let’s focus on business.” I mean, even in the introduction of the weekly speaker, I talked about the fact that I trained people to talk about their education, talk about their background, talk about their experience. And I really didn’t suggest that you talk about some of your personal interests. And that, I found over the years, was a mistake. People often think that networking is talking about business and exchanging cards, and that’s definitely part of it, but it’s not all of it.

In a networking group, you should talk about more than just business with people. A referral relationship is more than just, “I do business; you do business; let’s do business.” A much better approach is when you find common ground on a personal level and then make these connections and build business with other people.

I think the longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of those personal interests making connections with others. Networking is really about building those personal relationships, and if you remove the personal from the equation, you limit that amount of business that can happen.

I talk about this at length in a podcast a long time ago. The listeners might want to go back to that podcast. It’s podcast number 5, podcast number 5, 005, and I talk about the gains exchange. One BNI group that I worked with, I introduced the GAINS Exchange before it came out in my book, Business by Referral. The GAINS Exchange is an exercise that’s available in BNI. Any member can get it. It’s in Business by Referral, but go to your director and get the form if you want to try it out. It stands for Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills. The idea is that you have people share their personal and professional information about themselves in those areas, Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks, and Skills.

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