The Top 7 ‘other’ reasons to invite visitors to your BNI meeting
When I first joined BNI, I didn’t understand the importance of visitors. Directors came to our chapter and talked about how to invite visitors and that we should want to grow. I began to switch off after a while because what I was actually hearing was it was ‘my job to recruit for BNI’ and I resented that. Our chapter was big, so I figured I’d let others do the work.
We all hear what we want to hear and I was switched off for quite some time. One day a particular visitor came to our chapter and the person that invited him brought him over to me and introduced us telling me that he really wanted us to connect because he thought we might do business together. And we did. Lots of it. In fact, so much so that this person (who visited our chapter only once) became one of my best referrers that year.
And then I got it. The reason to invite visitors is much more varied than to grow a chapter. Of course there are times when you do need to grow your chapter or you are looking to fill specific vacancies but that’s a whole other article. Here are the top 7 ‘other’ reasons to invite (in no particular order).
- Visitors will do business with members.
When visitors see the level of trust and quality business happening in the room, those who have a need for your product or service will likely do business with you.
Around 30% of all business in a high performing BNI chapter is done through visitors. If your chapter isn’t generating business from visitors, chances are you don’t have enough in the room (which should roughly be 25% of your chapter membership each week so 40 members should see 10 visitors weekly).
The business may not happen immediately but making a meaningful connection with a visitor may put you at the top of their list when they need your particular product or service.
Hot tip: Always make sure you meet visitors and welcome them personally even if you’re not a visitor host. Visitors will most likely do business with people who they connect with. Give them your card and invite them to connect with you after the meeting.
- They tell other people about you.
I once gave a 60-second weekly presentation that apparently stuck in one of our visitor’s memory so well (and I never actually met this visitor on that day either) that he kept my business card and fished it out FIVE years later and gave it to a friend who needed my product. I’d sold that business by then and was a full-time BNI Executive Director but was still able to refer this person I had never even met and they thought I was a superstar for helping them. FIVE years – amazing!
Hot tip: Plan your weekly presentation so that it’s memorable for visitors. Use a story; stories stick in people’s minds long after they’ve left your chapter.
- Keep business in your community.
Bringing visitors from your local community is a great way to keep money in that community. Shop local is a movement in many parts of the world and having visitors from your local community is giving in action.
Hot tip: Think laterally, visitors don’t have to be able to join BNI. Potential invitees include:
- Teachers (on school break). They love seeing BNI in action and often refer many people into chapters for years after their visit.
- Service workers and those on shift work – they really enjoy the chance to meet quality business people in a professional environment.
- University Students relish the chance to meet business professionals. You never know who they know, so don’t’ assume they can’t add value to your chapter.
- Employees often don’t get invited to BNI because there is an assumption they can’t refer or join. BNI meetings are usually before work making it easy for employees to visit. Ask your best customers if you can invite their employees. It will cement your business relationship with that company and make you look great in their eyes.
- Family, friends and neighbours are a rich source of potential business to your members. Even if they aren’t in business does not mean they don’t know potential customers for you and your chapter mates.
- Be a Connector. Solve other people’s problems.
This may be a new concept to some, but a referral is simply an opportunity to solve someone else’s problem for them – and they appreciate it. Connecting your network in person with your chapter mates will have you known as ‘the connector’ in your community. Soon people will be asking to come to your BNI chapter and be connected with people.
Hot tip: Connect visitors with members in your chapter. Make sure your introduction has a brief story of how they’ve helped someone (from their weekly presentation or a recent one to one you’ve had). Use a story to illustrate your point and your chapter mate has a great opportunity to expand the conversation.
- Be proud of what you have achieved in your chapter.
Successful chapter members love to show colleagues outside BNI what a great group of people they get to hang out with every week. Having pride in a chapter will motivate people to invite more visitors and it becomes viral and self-sustaining because people will talk about what a great group of people they met.
Hot tip: If members aren’t proud of their chapter, they won’t invite. Pitch in and make the visitor experience exceptional, every time. Act like a host, even when it’s not your official role.
- A big meeting is exciting.
Have you ever had a visitor’s day, stack day or bring a sub day in your chapter? Having a room full of people creates a certain buzz at a BNI meeting. Business gets done, people want to be there and the tone of the entire meeting is uplifting. If you want to add some excitement to the room, bring people!
Hot tip: Did you know there are meeting stimulants your chapter can use to double the number of people in a room for a week? Talk to your chapter Director about strategies to fill your room.
- You are doing people a favour inviting them, not the other way around.
When I ‘got’ this concept, my whole inviting strategy changed. I used to desperately ask people to my meeting and got a constant stream of ‘no’. Admittedly I was inviting to recruit and obviously, that strategy wasn’t working for me. When I realised I was doing others a favour to have them to meet my network (and I wanted it less than them) I attracted a lot of people to my chapter. People are attracted to confidence and repelled by desperation, so be confident in your inviting.
Meeting your chapter is a privilege and you should approach the invitation so. You are doing them a real favour introducing them to the amazing people in your chapter – keep that in perspective and it will help you
Hot tip: Don’t over invite and by that, I mean, don’t try to sell BNI. My best inviting line was “come and meet this amazing group of people I do business with you’ll be blown away by the calibre of business owners in the room. Simple effective. There are lots of other techniques which you can find by searching www.bnipodcast.com
BNI works, but it only works fully if all the metrics are being met. Visitors are a key component of every chapter’s success. Some will join, some won’t so what? Chapters that deliver an amazing chapter experience never have challenges with the number of visitors in the room. If you find it hard to invite, start small and work up from there – your Director or fellow members can help. Set yourself a target of one visitor a month from your inner circle and don’t worry about whether they can join or not, just think about all the other great reasons they may want to come.
Be confident, be proud and always make the experience worthwhile for every visitor.